City of Lake Charles Disaster Recovery Support

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Client: City of Lake Charles

Location: Louisiana

Recognizing a Need

In August 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall as one of the two strongest hurricanes on record to strike Louisiana. It caused even more widespread damage than 2005’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the exemplars of catastrophic storm damage in the region. To compound these disastrous effects, six weeks later, Hurricane Delta made landfall as a Category 2 storm on a path just east of Laura’s, adding to the damages. Most recently, in May 2021, a historic flooding event struck Lake Charles when a storm system dropped more rain on the city in six hours than had fallen during Laura and Delta.

The City of Lake Charles needed to navigate the complex system of federal disaster recovery grants, especially those from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Like many cities, the City of Lake Charles did not have sufficient staff to perform the work of managing its federal disaster recovery grants, nor did its existing staff have the highly specialized knowledge needed to navigate the complex requirements of the multiple funding programs. Each program has its own specific requirements, and grantees that do not meet all of these requirements risk losing some or all of the funding after the rebuilding work is completed. To address this need, the city sought a contractor with highly experienced and knowledgeable staff who could provide technical assistance, manage the City’s programs on a day-to-day level, and document that all requirements had been met. The City selected HGA to provide this assistance for the FEMA Public Assistance Program and the HUD Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program via competitive bids. Its ultimate goal was to restore the City to its pre-storm condition while building in measures to mitigate potential future damage from similar events and revitalize the economy.

Our solution

We deployed our team to provide administrative services, program and project management, disaster recovery technical assistance, environmental reviews, tracking and reporting, compliance oversight, funding source reimbursement, grant development, and closeout and audit support for federally funded disaster recovery programs. We also helped the City to develop and administer a Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) Program and a Private Property Demolition Program, both of which promote economic revitalization and reduce the health and safety risks posed by both debris and dilapidated buildings. The additional grants that HGA has helped the City apply for and secure have resulted in funds of more than $92 million for needed projects for the community.

Leveraging our innovative Geographic Information System (GIS) tools, HGA conducted preliminary damage assessments (PDAs) to document damage from Hurricane Laura, including collecting and processing thousands of high-resolution aerial images. Through our VistaTRAK® Project Tracking and Reporting Service, HGA developed GIS data packages in order to analyze, map, and manage the areas that were hit the hardest during Hurricane Laura. The City of Lake Charles will use this information to improve communication and efficiency and to support better management and decision-making before, during, and after a disaster.

HGA is still providing support for the City’s disaster recovery efforts; disaster recovery can be a painfully slow process due to the many stringent regulations surrounding the federal grants that fund it. However, HGA has given the city a number of successes to date. We provided preliminary damage assessments immediately following the storm event and collected high-resolution aerial imagery to support these. HGA is assisting the City with FEMA Public Assistance grant management of $261,000,000 in federal funds. HGA helped them to prepare 13 grant applications resulting in $64.5 million in additional funds to date, and this figure is still growing. The programs for private property debris removal and demolition have taken down and removed tons of storm-related debris. HGA developed and submitted an Action Plan for the City’s $17,818,000 direct allocation through HUD’s Disaster Recovery Grants Reporting System (DRGR). We are currently developing a Recovery Proposal and project applications for the $46,568,506 allocation the City is receiving through the State of Louisiana’s Resilient Communities Infrastructure Program (RCIP) funded by HUD grants to the State.

Value delivered

Due to HGA’s experience, key personnel, and workflow management systems, HGA identified additional funding opportunities for the City of Lake Charles. We have helped the city to identify, apply for, and evaluate additional grant opportunities, including future HUD allocations, other FEMA funding opportunities, federal and state infrastructure grants, and relief from Hurricane Delta and the May 2021 floods. The objective of this technical assistance is to align opportunities for federal or state funding to achieve the city’s goals and to leverage recovery funding to achieve greater outcomes.

Our wide-ranging technical assistance has assisted the city in obtaining and managing federal grant funding challenges and has helped build capacity and efficiencies within the city. By equipping city staff with the knowledge, skills, tools, capacity, and systems to implement federal programs and policies successfully, we have helped reduce the need for added contractor expenses in the future.