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Obama to flood victims: 'You are not alone'


BATON ROUGE — President Barack Obama promised Louisiana's flood recovery will remain a priority "even after the news cameras are gone" following a tour of the damage here Tuesday.
"You're not alone on this," Obama said during a press conference in a hard-hit Zachary neighborhood. "... We will support you and help you until folks get back in their homes and lives are rebuilt. I know how resilient the people in Louisiana are and know you'll rebuild again."
The massive flood has claimed 13 lives and damaged more than 100,000 homes.
"America will not forget Louisiana," Obama said as he was about to board Air Force One to leave Baton Rouge.
It was a theme he emphasized at every stop.
"This is not a one-off, a photo op," the president said during his press conference. "We need all Americans to stay focused. Find out how you can help. We're going to need to stay on this."
Obama praised the work of Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, who was with the president Tuesday and also came to Louisiana last week.
The president called Fugate "one of the best hires I've made. He rebuilt FEMA and changed its culture," he said.
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Gov. John Bel Edwards said of the president: "He was tuned in. I'm very pleased with his level of engagement."
Edwards said he spent 20 uninterrupted minutes explaining the state's needs to Obama and Fugate and then provided them with a letter outlining specific requests.
Those include: reducing the state's cost share for disaster spending from 25 percent to 10 percent, appropriating Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds, allocating $125 million to the Comite River Diversion Project, providing emergency highway funding for repairs, waiving the state's cost share for coastal restoration projects, and fully funding the Louisiana National Guard deployment for 30 days.
"We're appreciative of all of the FEMA (funding), but that won't be enough to help (Louisiana) recover," Edwards said in an interview immediately after Obama boarded Air Force One.
Obama said FEMA attorneys will "explore statutory flexibility" for additional help and acknowledged the state and victims "will need some special help and support for a while."
Naketa Woods met Obama in the driveway of her Castle Place subdivision home in Zachary, telling the president her house took on 2 to 3 feet of water.
"We lost everything," she said, including two vehicles. "We have to start all over."
She said Obama's visit was important to the community.
"It shows us that he hasn't forgotten us," Woods said.
Obama approached Woods with a hug. "I'm so sorry for everything that's going on," he told her. "It's a beautiful home."
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