As I wrote here, my home city of New Orleans still has reason to complain about federal/Bush administration fumbling and bad decision-making in response to Katrina. The latest confirmation of just about everything I wrote comes in today's Washington Post. This lead sentence captures the first part of the problem: "Nearly eight months after Hurricane Katrina triggered the nation's largest housing crisis since the Second World War, a hastily improvised $10 billion effort by the federal government has produced vast sums of waste and misspent funds, an array of government audits and outside analysts have concluded." Meanwhile, though, the second problem is that even with all the funds spent, not much aid actually reached the people it was supposed to reach, as in this summary from a White House report cited in the Post: "The Federal government's capability to provide housing solutions to the displaced Gulf Coast population has proved to be far too slow, bureaucratic, and inefficient." Among the other findings:
- FEMA spent $900 million to buy 25,000 manufactured homes and 1,300 modular homes, most of which cannot be used because agency rules say they are too big or unsafe in flood zones.
- The agency spent $632 million to subsidize hotel rooms for tens of thousands of families at an average cost of $2,400 a month, three times what it later paid families to rent two-bedroom apartments.
Congressional impatience has mounted. Chairman Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) and ranking Democrat Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote Chertoff last month, characterizing the government's "inability to help thousands of Americans who were forced from their homes" find housing "simply unacceptable," and called for improvements.
They were joined April 5 by the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), which approved a $27 billion Katrina relief bill that would bar Chertoff from using housing funds until he submits a comprehensive plan. It also expressed continued frustration "with the lack of a housing policy for the Gulf Coast.
And, of course, it was only two days ago that the feds finally released their new zoning requirements for new and rebuilt homes in New Orleans, which is why so many homeowners had not been able to rebuild on their own: They couldn't build until they knew what the specs were.
All of which is why the "Baker Bill" for a "Louisiana Recovery Corporation" was/remains so desperately needed -- and why the Bush administration's opposition thereto is so inexcusable.
My blood boils.
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