Basic human needs should always come first after a disaster

Most would admit, practically speaking, anger and gratitude are opposites.
Many  like to think, too,  gratitude is the better sentiment.
However, we were struck last week by the reaction to news that state officials have vowed to make housing the No. 1 priority for federal hazard mitigation funds.
After disputing that housing for victims of the June 2016 catastrophic floods was never not the No. 1 priority, state officials said going forward it would be.
Many who lost their homes and some state legislators expressed their relief and gratitude for this shift.
We are inclined to be more on the angry end of this spectrum after seeing documents and hearing Justice administration officials’ spin.
Documents brought to light by a MetroNews Freedom of Information Act request point out in a November 2017 “summit” to hash out  flood relief allocations housing was not the top priority. At that summit, it’s clear the Justice administration set infrastructure and economic developments above housing.
Despite the governor’s general counsel’s spin and others’ efforts to rewrite this meeting’s minutes and other documents, we don’t buy it. Besides, Justice administration officials did not just tell legislators at a subcommittee meeting last week that these priorities will be flipped — housing requests before generators. Indeed, it’s redirecting  $46 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant funds to housing requests.
When the state suddenly drops its $5 million renovation of its Emergency Operations Center, and $41 million in infrastructure projects to redirect to housing we have to ask: Why wasn’t this money for housing all along?
Some will point out these infrastructure projects are vital, too, and we don’t disagree. However, when people are reduced to living in campers for nearly three years without running water that’s unacceptable.
Space does not allow us to go into  detail about other programs and projects that failed 2016’s flood victims who lost their homes. Yet, some estimates put federal flood relief dollars the state received in the aftermath of this flood at more than $200 million.
We’re no housing developers, but you could build hundreds of modest homes within two years with that kind of money and still have a lot left over.
June 23 is the three-year mark since floodwaters killed
23 people and destroyed several thousand homes and small businesses.
Yes, many of us can accept our road conditions being what they are today for years.
But most of us, despite our politics, think alike about basic human needs after a flood — they are the priority.

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