Brad Heath, USA Today, February 9, 2009
"A massive effort to fix public works destroyed more than three years ago by the Gulf Coast hurricanes remains largely stalled, leaving more than $3.9 billion in federal aid unspent and key repairs far from complete....
"Nearly 3½ years after those storms hit, new FEMA accounting reports show two-thirds of the money to pay for permanent rebuilding work still has not been spent, the latest bottleneck in a recovery long beset by criticism that it has been too slow and inefficient. And despite a handful of high-profile successes, officials who had vowed to speed up the pace of repairs concede it is still going far more slowly than it should."
Al Kamen, Washington Post, November 25, 2008
"There's increasing talk that former director James Lee Witt, who took over the then-troubled agency at the start of the Clinton administration and left it eight years later with a much-enhanced reputation, is coming back from retirement to run FEMA for six months to a year, to whip it into shape....
"Witt, however, is likely to be grilled about his work on Katrina relief. Witt and Merritt began their work in the days after the hurricane, when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) hired their disaster recovery firm with an open-ended no-bid contract.
"An NBC News investigation of Louisiana records found that James Lee Witt Associates was paid more than $40 million for its work. Merritt, who had been the firm's top manager in Louisiana, tallied $506,000 in billable hours over the 10-month span from September 2005 through June 2006, NBC News found in its July 2007 report. The firm allegedly billed the state double what it actually paid its subcontractors, the report said. For instance, the firm subcontracted an Indiana company to manage recovery grants. That company's workers were paid $19 to $20 an hour, but the company billed Witt Associates $37.50 an hour, and Witt Associates billed the state $75 an hour, according to the NBC report."
Bill Quigley, Common Dreams, August 30, 2008
"In the blazing midday sun, hot and thirsty little children walk around bags of diapers and soft suitcases piled outside a locked community center in the Lower Ninth Ward. Military police in camouflage and local police in dark blue uniforms and sunglasses sit a few feet away in their cars. Moms and grandmas sit with the children quietly. Everyone is waiting for a special city bus which will start them on their latest journey away from home....
"Soldiers with long guns and police of all types are everywhere. Fifteen hundred police are on duty and at least that many National Guard are also here. One estimate says two million people may be displaced....
"There are still big problems. A 311 call system for the disabled and seniors never properly functioned, crashed and has been abandoned."
Bill Quigley, CommonDreams, August 24, 2008
0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant — compared to 116,708 homeowners.
0. Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development....
8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government....
12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridge has been resettled — double the pre-Katrina number....
1.9 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered."
Marty Rowland, Marty Rowland, December 24, 2007
"The unanimous vote by the New Orleans City Council members to approve the
demolition of the “Big Four” St. Bernard, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, and
Lafitte housing developments amounts to this: They are tearing down
buildings in a futile attempt to fix problems that cannot be fixed by
tearing down buildings....
"Problem #1: There is a severe housing shortage in post-Katrina New Orleans, especially for the poor. Well, how is tearing down 4,500 units of affordable housing going to help? HUD and HANO propose to replace the developments with new ones that will take years to complete. But folks cannot wait!"
Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post, November 25, 2007
"While Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has hailed the casino openings as a harbinger of Mississippi's resurgence and developers have proposed more than $1 billion in beachfront condos and hotels for tourists, fewer than one in 10 of the thousands of single-family houses destroyed in Biloxi are being rebuilt, according to city permit records. More than 10,000 displaced families still live in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
Bill Walsh, Times-Picayune, September 29, 2007
"It is a smorgasbord in New Orleans! It is a buffet, an economic buffet! All you can eat! If you have a lawnmower and an edger, you can make money in New Orleans."
- Mayor Ray Nagin, New Orleans