Now, just weeks away from the fifth anniversary of the federally-caused flood, New Orleans has recovered, physically, economically, even spiritually, to a degree un-dreamed of by locals and outsiders alike in the early years. Yet a new report in the Times-Picayune spotlights a key choke-point in the recovery, the thousands of homeowners who received so-called Road Home grants from the feds (via the state) to rebuild, but who, so far, have not reinhabited their houses.
Surely some people have taken the money and run. But just as surely many homeonwers were drained by the months and years it took to get their money. Their mortgage-holders demanded immediate repayment when the grant came in, and the grant level, pegged to pre-flood values, did not take into account the inflation in materials and labor in the construction industry that followed the disaster.
And there's one other point: the delay in starting up the program in the first place. After the Bush Administration quixotically rejected the so-called Baker Bill (authored by a Republican Congressman from Louisiana), long months went by in which the feds -- suspicious of chicanery in New Orleans -- insisted on the state being the middleman, and the state then turned to a private contractor (at a hefty fee) to do the job.
Okay, so the feds were concerned that New Orleanians would get the grants and be unaccountable, to the tune of $7 billion. Turn now to today's Washington Post, where someone has been unaccountable to the tune of $80 billion over the past five years. What do you know, it's the Pentagon, unable to properly supervise the private contractors doing war work in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lack of accountability in foreign wars -- no big deal. Some spillage in getting flooded-out Americans back into their homes -- intolerable.
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