Periodically, the Louisiana Recovery Authority shares opinion pieces and news articles that describe the major issues in Louisiana's hurricane recovery. The following editorial can be found at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/10/AR2006031001876.html
Looting From Louisiana
Saturday, March 11, 2006; A18
FOR THE FIRST time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged their homes more than six months ago, residents of New Orleans's flooded neighborhoods this week started hoping again. The state of Louisiana launched a program that could provide homeowners with grants designed to cover the gap between the real cost of reconstruction and the funds they have already received from insurance companies and the government.
The program, which was worked out in consultation with the White House, is not extravagant: It covers only residential property, it is capped at $150,000, and it is designed to work in concert with a zoning plan so that people are discouraged from rebuilding in unsafe areas. On Wednesday, the state started accepting applications: Immediately, calls (to 1-888-762-3252) and online applications (at http://www.housing-la.com/ ) began roaring in. And no wonder: The state expects that upward of 100,000 people will be eligible to receive funds.
Whether they all will get money is another question, since this week Congress took a step toward ensuring that some don't. While Louisianians were dialing in and logging on, the House Appropriations Committee took up on Wednesday the $4.2 billion that the administration requested to complete the funding of the program -- and refused to designate the money for any one state. Texas wants some. Mississippi probably wants some. And when other states start thinking a bit harder about their Katrina-related costs -- schoolchildren educated, evacuees housed -- they may start wanting some, too.
But for once, this $4.2 billion is not a sum plucked out of the air. It is the figure that the White House, the state and the city figured would be needed, along with money already allocated, to make the compensation program work: It is a precisely calculated sum, tied to the number of flooded houses, the amount of insurance money paid out and the actual costs of reconstruction. If the House insists on carving money out of it for others -- as it has done with other hurricane funds -- these calculations will be thrown off completely.
No doubt Texas and Mississippi do still have financial needs, but they should meet them in other ways. If the country, and the Congress, want New Orleans to revive, they should leave this one chunk of funding for Louisiana alone.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company