Thursday, March 1

New Katrina Reconstruction Report: Feds Sanction Robbing the Victimized, Homeless

New Dem-led 110th Congress looks other way as public funds filched from the poor for projects for the well-off

After Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in September 2005, the Institute of Southern Studies' Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch "to document and investigate the rebuilding of the Southern Gulf in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

On Wednesday (28 February) the organization issued its second progress report in rebuilding the region, and results are little improved from the first report issued late last summer on the anniversary of Katrina's horrific landfall.

Here are some highlights from the recent update:

Total worth of 19 Katrina contracts that experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending or mismanagement: $8.75 billion

Amount that Hurricane Katrina spending waste could exceed this year because half of government cleanup contracts valued at $500,000 or greater being awarded with little competition: $1 billion

Since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, the number of Louisiana homeowners who've received federal rebuilding aid: 94

The number of tenants who've received federal rebuilding aid: 0

Amount of federal funds Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour allocated to compensate homeowners without flood insurance: $3.4 billion

Amount Barbour allocated to rebuild public housing in impacted areas: $100 million

Amount he's allocated to assist owners of damaged rental properties: $0

Number of students put on waiting lists for New Orleans public schools in January 2007 because there was no room to accommodate them: 300

Number of teachers that Louisiana's state-run Recovery School District was short for 2007: 70

Proportion of Louisiana schools serving displaced students where class size increased: 1/3

Percent drop in enrollment of Louisiana state public colleges and universities from fall 2005 to fall 2006: 12

Damage sustained by local nonprofit health centers in Louisiana and Mississippi: $60 million

Amount of federal aid made available to those health centers to date, in the form of tax credits: $15 million

The number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds in post-Katrina New Orleans, compared to a pre-storm high of 234: 17

When New Orleans University Hospital reopened in November 2006, the number of its 575 pre-storm beds available: 85

Of the $300 million Louisiana requested to help hospitals and health care workers from the $2 billion pool Congress appropriated for post-storm health care needs, the amount that ar: $0

Estimated economic benefit each year of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or “Mr. GO,” which experts say helped worsen the impact of Hurricane Katrina: $6.2 million

Annual cost of operating and maintaining Mr. GO: $12.5 million

Source: A New Agenda for the Gulf (pdf), Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch/Institute for Southern Studies, February 2007

Postscript: New Orleans Attorney/Advocate Bill Quigley Challenges the Fraud

Though Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has tried to censor Big Easy attorney Bill Quigley from speaking out about the agency's efforts to raze viable public housing in New Orleans "even while thousands of people are searching for affordable housing in the city," he insists on skewing reckless federal public housing officials. According to Facing South, the Institute of Southern Studies' award-winning magazine:

"As we reported, HUD has tried to gag Quigley for his criticisms, demanding he not speak to the press (Quigley has not complied.) The activists also recently won a legal victory when a judge refused to throw out their lawsuit saying housing officials are evicting people without due process. You can read more at Justice for New Orleans."

Quigley also appeared 31 January on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, telling her:

"And the tragedy is that they are using the money that Congress gave to the victims of Katrina, and they are what I call like a Robin Hood in reverse. They are stealing the money that should be coming to the low-income community, and instead converting that money and using it for property owners and the developers and the like. And in case of public housing, they're using Katrina tax credits, they're using Katrina rebuilding money in excess of $100 million and additional money to destroy houses that are structurally sound and are actually in better physical shape than almost any of the residential buildings in the city of New Orleans. So they are using money to help Katrina -- that was designated to help Katrina victims, to destroy affordable housing, put money into the pockets of developers and then put up some other housing that they're not going to let low-income people back into."

...and the new Democrat Congress has yet to investigate any of the ongoing shams and scams.

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