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This should become an important campaign issue: Katrina Aid Still UnspentViews: 414
Jan 14, 2008 9:13 pmThis should become an important campaign issue: Katrina Aid Still Unspent#

Danielle (Dani) Cutler

$4.5 Billion In Katrina Aid Unspent

  • When you get fed up with the red tape at your local DMV, consider this: Three-quarters of the billions in federal money earmarked to replace schools, firehouses and other public works after the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes still haven’t been spent. [USA Today]
  • Looking closer at the numbers: Of the $4.5 billion that FEMA approved for infrastructure projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, only $1 billion has been used.
  • So where’s the rest of it? Waiting in limbo. Much of the funds are sitting in state accounts waiting to be parceled out to the local officials responsible for the rebuilding work.
  • Problems and hold-ups exist on both the federal and the local levels. And, naturally, officials from both sides are pointing their fingers at each other.
  • “It’s time for local governments to start making the tough decisions about what they’re going to build back and start moving forward on the permanent recovery,” said Robert Josephson, FEMA spokesman.
  • Meanwhile, state and local officials overseeing the recovery say they are moving as quickly as they can to get the projects finished. Many require months of planning and construction, and navigating federal rules has sidetracked hundreds of projects, said Andy Kopplin, the outgoing head of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
  • Additionally, officials on the ground say the biggest roadblock to their recovery has been FEMA’s cumbersome process that must be endured in order for funds to be spent.
  • FEMA’s public assistance program gives money to states, which generally use it to reimburse local governments for projects once they’re complete. That process has created obstacles for New Orleans and other communities, where local laws say money must be in place before work can begin. The city has borrowed $460 million to cover upfront costs.
  • “Very simply, it’s dramatically slowed down the infrastructure reconstruction process. It slows down the recovery,” Kopplin said. “Are we satisfied with the rate of construction? Absolutely not. We’d like it to be double that. But the biggest challenge in spending the money has been FEMA’s process.


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