Sunday, September 30, 2007

Slouching toward New Orleans

Facing South blogger Chris Kromm testified before Congress on conditions in post-Katrina New Orleans and he had this to say to them about the way how the Bush Administration is actually allocated the tax dollars it touts as big spending for recovery:
The reality is that the widely-cited [Bush Administration] figure of $116 billion doesn’t give an accurate pictures of hurricane spending, and Washington continue to invest in the people of the Gulf Coast if there is to be a full and fair recovery.

According to our analysis of federal spending for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the amount appropriated by Congress and the White House to date comes just short of $95 billion.

That's a significant sum -- although it's important to understand it's still far short of what's needed to truly revive the Gulf Coast. For example, most estimates place the value of infrastructure damage in Louisiana alone at about $100 billion.

But the most important finding of our analysis, which was conducted with the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights, was that out of the $95 billion, only about 30% of that money has been aimed at the long-term rebuilding projects the Gulf Coast so desperately needs to get back on its feet. That’s through FEMA’s Public Assistance program and HUD’s Community Development Block Grants.

More than two-thirds of federal spending for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to date has been slated for short-term emergency needs -- vital items like the Coast Guard, providing shelter and debris removal.

But that has left only a fraction of the "big check" -- $30-$35 billion -- to tackle big, long-term projects like building and repairing roads, schools, hospitals and -- the focus of this hearing -- housing.

Even more surprising, our analysis revealed that, as of August, less than half of that 30% allocated for long-term recovery had actually been spent.

We can see the impact of these funding shortfalls and bottlenecks in the housing crisis, which every Gulf Coast leader we surveyed said was the #1 barrier to a real recovery.
Much like Ground Zero at the World Trade Center, New Orleans is being cleaned up but not rebuilt by the Bush Administration, which is poised to be the world's most powerful janitorial operation.

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