Louisiana steers federal money to infrastructure upgrades

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Before they wrapped up their session, Louisiana lawmakers charted the spending of nearly $1.7 billion in federal pandemic aid, creating a complex network of programs to send money to ports, water systems, tourism marketing efforts and broadband projects in underserved areas.

More than $1 billion was carved off the top for two legislative priorities: $563 million for road and bridge work and $490 million to shore up Louisiana’s near-bankrupt unemployment trust fund and repay money borrowed to cover jobless benefits.

A web of agencies and commissions will divvy up much of the remaining money among specific projects and businesses, under a package of bills that chart the spending plans and create the bureaucracy to manage the new programs. Grant applications, deadlines and other parameters remain to be developed for most of the initiatives.

Lawmakers particularly touted $300 million they’ve set aside for repairs and improvements to community water systems in a state where half the systems are operating off structures more than 50 years old and are regularly ranked in national surveys as barely above failing.

“Now we have the capability and the resources to address this,” House Appropriations Chairman Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, a Houma Republican, said during discussion of the spending plans.

A newly created 10-member commission of lawmakers will decide which community water and sewer systems should share in the money. The commission’s required to hold its first meeting sometime this month to start setting up the process for sifting through applications.

“There will likely be more requests than we have money in a … Continue Reading Full Story >>>

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