February 20, 2009
This past Wednesday USA Today published a letter I sent in response to an earlier article in their newspaper stating that more than $3.9 billion in Hurricane Katrina recovery money remains unspent more than three and a half years after the storm.
What was so troubling about the article, which you can read here, was that Jim Stark, who runs FEMA's recovery effort in the Gulf Coast, reportedly suggested that the bureaucratic logjam holding up the recovery money was the fault of local governments.
What will readers around the country think when presented with a statement such as this? As I noted in my letter, this is an insult to a region that continues to recover in spite of, not because of, FEMA.
For instance, for more than two years we worked under the guidance of FEMA personnel on plans to mitigate future flood and water damage to Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Then, last June, we were told by FEMA that the counsel provided by their own employees was actually bad advice. In addition, Tulane has been told by FEMA officials that more than $217 million worth of our repair work is eligible for public assistance reimbursement. Yet, to this day, FEMA has agreed to pay only $56 million.
One bright spot is that new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has pledged to get FEMA moving faster on long standing Gulf Coast issues. Hopefully, FEMA, under new leadership and direction, will finally complete its long overdue work in this area. Let's take that happy thought with us as we begin our Mardi Gras weekend. Please be safe, responsible and have fun.
Have a great weekend,
218 Gibson Hall, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5201 firstname.lastname@example.org