During the month of September, rig workers impacted the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling will be able to apply for financial assistance grants ranging from $3,000 to $30,000. BP, which managed the Deepwater Horizon Rig that exploded on April 20, leaking massive amounts of crude into the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately leading to the federal drilling ban, has ponied up $100 million to bankroll the grant program.
President Barack Obama originally asked BP to create the program and the oil giant selected the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a clearinghouse for philanthropists to oversee the process. During a press conference earlier this week, BRAF President John Davies said a new sub-group called the Gulf Restoration and Protection Foundation will be heading up the program and is in the process of choosing a third party administrator that will actually review applications and determine grant amounts.
Davies said he expects about 9,000 rig workers to qualify for grants and as many as 20,000 queries to come through his office. Even though applications will be taken beginning Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, the grants will be based on need, not on salaries or income — and definitely not on a first-come, first-serve basis. “There is no benefit to speed here,” he said.
As for who qualifies, the grant program is limited to people who were working on deepwater rigs on May 6, which is when the federal moratorium on drilling took effect. All grant monies are expected to be mailed out to eligible applicants no later than Oct. 30. The application hotline is (866) 577-8141 and information is available at www.RigReliefGrants.org. For now, the phone number has a recorded message, but will be manned live beginning Sept. 1.
As rig workers wait for the Sept. 1 start date, they can begin gathering documents, including recent pay stubs, verification of employment, W-2 and 1099 forms, recent income tax returns, information on spousal income, insurance proceeds, unemployment payments, details on any other money received from assistance funds and a list of your average monthly expenses for the three months prior to the May 6 shutdown. Interest in the program is expected to be intense. “We could run out of money pretty quickly,” Davies said.
Davies said he had received no indication of a commitment from the oil giant, which did not send a representative to this week’s press conference, to put up more money if the need outstrips the initial grant program. About $93.5 million of the $100 million fund will go to rig workers. An administrative fee of $6.5 million will be doled out to the GCRPF and the third party administrator it selects.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.