"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, August 25, 2006

One Year After Katrina and Counting

As Bush talked yesterday with Rocky, the Republican pizza executive sent up to Washington by Rove as a representative of the distressed people of New Orleans, things sounded hopeful. Rocky couldn't have been more pleased. After all, $110 billion has been approved for the Gulf Coast area to rebuild, right?

Here is part of story from Reuters today that offers a glimpse of the hurdles that have been put in place by BushCo. to make sure that the only people who can hold out until the money gets to New Orleans are those people who don't need it. It is hoped that the poor and working class black population will give up, take a few dollars for the destroyed property, and then get out of the way.

How much has NOLA actually collected of that $110 billion?
So far, the city has collected only $117 million to start the repair work in what has been billed as the largest urban restoration in U.S. history.

For every repair project, city officials must follow a lengthy application process - and spend their own money - before getting a dime of federal aid to fix at least 833 projects such as police stations, courtrooms, baseball fields or auditoriums.

Residents don't care much what the cause is. They're just tired of crater-like potholes, sudden drops in water pressure and debris-clogged storm drains.

"We're not asking for a lot. At this point, we're just looking for basic services: power, gas, water. Sewer that doesn't back up into your house would be nice too," said Jeb Bruneau, president of the neighborhood association in the Lakeview area. "Whatever the snafu was, the result is Joe Blow Citizen isn't seeing the effect of that federal money."

Louisiana eventually expects to get at least $25 billion in federal money for rebuilding projects, including everything from levee repairs to homeowner assistance. Of that money, $6 billion to $8 billion will be doled out statewide to repair broken roads, schools, water pipes and countless other problems.

But to get the money, the city - and other agencies such as the Sewerage and Water Board, the Regional Transit Authority and Orleans Parish School Board - must fill out worksheets for every construction project.

The worksheets are submitted to FEMA, which determines whether the project is eligible for federal aid. If approved, the federal government releases the approved money to the state, but the local government fronts the money to have the work done. After that, the local government can submit receipts for reimbursement.

The process takes months and can be further complicated if costs surpass the original request - a particular concern in New Orleans because of shortages of materials and construction workers.

It also requires the city have cash to pay upfront, forcing money to be diverted from other parts of the budget.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Bush and Spellings get next week when they go politicking among the residents there.

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