DALLAS - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal went to Washington, D.C., to meet with the state's congressional delegation on Tuesday to advance the case for millions of federal dollars in reimbursement for its expenses and losses related to Hurricane Gustav.
The state has already spent at least $383.9 million on preparing for the storm and cleaning up after it hit the state on Sept. 1. Jindal said that estimate did not include many costs in the 35 affected parishes, including at least $100 million in damage to state facilities.
Total damages and expenses are still being determined, he said, but will undoubtedly grow from the preliminary estimates.
The damage estimate also does not include expenses and damages from Hurricane Ike, which devastated three parishes in southwestern Louisiana after making landfall west of Galveston, Tex. The Department of Administration said it expects to release those estimates by the end of this week.
Total damages to public and private property from the two storms could be as high as $20 billion, the governor said.
"For the second time in three years, the state of Louisiana has been devastated by back-to-back catastrophic weather events," Jindal said.
"Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana on Sept. 1, 2008, with damages estimated as high as $10 billion," he said. "Many Louisiana citizens were still without electricity when Hurricane Ike hit south and southwest Louisiana on Sept. 12, producing storm surges higher than the record set by Hurricane Rita in 2005."
Jindal said many local communities are concerned that their tax revenues will be reduced because of the storms. The state will look at information provided by local officials before calculating those losses, he said.
Commissioner of Administration AngÃ©le Davis said the hurricanes' effects on local governments could be substantial.
"While I am pleased that the state was on sound financial footing ahead of the storm, the sheer magnitude of the storm's impact, especially on local communities, makes it essential that we receive the national recognition and resources necessary to recover fully," she said.
Uninsured housing losses in Louisiana from the two storms are estimated at $3 billion.
Jindal said Congress must approve an aid package for the region soon as lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn at the end of this week and won't return until after the November election.
The governor said he will ask the federal government to reimburse the state and local governments for all expenses related to the removal of storm debris and operations at emergency shelters, and provide the promised reimbursement for hospitals affected by damage and higher costs due to the hurricanes in 2005. Jindal is also seeking aid for farmers and fishermen affected by the storm, and community development block grants to help local governments cover uninsured losses.
Public infrastructure losses in Louisiana from the two storms could total $1 billion, Jindal said. That includes up to $150 million of damages to public schools in the state, $33.7 million of damages to state colleges and universities, and more than $100 million of damages to state facilities.
The first $50 million of damages to state facilities is not covered by insurance, so the governor is asking the federal government to reimburse Louisiana for those losses.
Jindal used his trip to Washington to urge Congress to include $350 million in reimbursements to hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi from expenses related to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 in a supplemental appropriations bill.
Medical facilities in the New Orleans area suffered $137 million in damages from the 2005 storms that have not been reimbursed by the federal government as promised, Jindal said.
"These hospitals suffered additional losses related to Gustav, and yet have not received relief for their losses and incremental costs resulting from the 2005 storm," he said. "We remain concerned as Congress addresses the damage done from hurricanes Gustav and Ike that the final resolution of this important issue lingering from Hurricane Katrina will become lost in the debate."