Thursday, November 24, 2005

Architects Envision New Orleans Rebuilding

Architects Envision New Orleans Rebuilding - Yahoo! News

Some Food Banks Say Katrina Drained Aid

NEW YORK - After Hurricane Katrina, Americans sent waves of trucks loaded with food to the many thousands of people driven from their homes by the storm. But that generosity may have had a hidden cost.

Some hunger-relief charities in cities far from the disaster are reporting a decline in donations, largely because many contributors have been sending food to the Gulf Coast instead.
The Food Bank for New York City, which supplies 1,300 soup kitchens and food pantries, said it collected about 2.4 million pounds of food in the past four months, 1 million fewer pounds than it gathered during the same period last year.

"We are tapping into our reserves," said spokeswoman Lisa Jakobsberg. "I have not seen our shelves as empty as they are right now since 9/11."

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank said donations have declined about 12 percent.
In Milwaukee, an annual fall food drive held by a regional food bank collected 19,216 pounds of food, down from 40,594 pounds last year. One reason: Only 49 schools volunteered to be collection points, compared with 103 in 2004.

"We heard specifically from many of the schools that the reason why they weren't collecting this year was that they had already collected for Katrina victims in September," said Gina Styer, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin chapter of America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest network of food banks.

Charity administrators said the problem is not that people are giving less.

Donations of food are up 40 percent this year to America's Second Harvest, which supports 210 food banks nationwide. Much of that increase in aid, though, has been in the form of hurricane relief, said the group's spokeswoman, Mara Daley.

Since the storm, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana has been distributing more than three times its average volume of food.

Individual donors account for only a small portion of the food served in soup kitchens and food pantries. Most comes from either the U.S.

Department of Agriculture, which spends more than $50 billion a year on anti-hunger programs, or in bulk donations from manufacturers, supermarket chains and other food retailers, which give excess inventory to relief agencies.

The food eventually makes its way to places like Brooklyn's Neighbors Together soup kitchen, which feeds 300 people a day from a room just big enough to hold three picnic tables and a serving counter.

Ed Fowler, the cafeteria's executive director, said it has not had any shortages. But he said that could change if the donation pattern remains unbalanced for months.

"I'd hate to be worrying about how to feed 300 people in the middle of winter," he said.
On Wednesday, as people began lining up for a lunch of chicken soup, his problem was turkeys. The kitchen had a dozen ready to go for Thanksgiving, but would be left with zero for Christmas.
Then, in a minute, the problem was solved. A van pulled up and out hopped a group of off-duty postal workers carrying an unexpected gift of a dozen frozen birds.

"This is fantastic," Fowler said. "This is the one time of the year at which people are conscious of hunger. But don't forget that we're here for 363 other days of the year, too."

Community and Resistance--Jordan's Log

A couple months before New Orleans flooded, I remember walking through my neighborhood on a beautiful weekend afternoon and hearing music. I followed the sound a couple blocks, to where about thirty people, all of them Black, followed a few musicians through the streets. They were mourning the death of a loved one, New Orleans-style. Most folks were wearing custom t-shirts with a picture of the deceased. Next to the photo were the words “sunrise” along with the date of his birth, and “sunset,” above the date of his (recent) death - he was 20. Also on the shirt were the words, “No More Drama.”On the back, the shirts were individualized, with the relation of the wearer to the deceased. One woman’s shirt said “momma.” A few teenagers had shirts that said “cuz.” A small child’s shirt said “daddy.” Despite their loss, they were dancing through the streets. When the band finished their final song, everyone danced their hearts out. I don’t know what else to say, except that's how we do it in New Orleans, and the image of those people mourning through celebration sticks with me as I see New Orleans today, struggling with so much loss and tragedy.

Cornel West, who has visited New Orleans often, said shortly after the city was flooded, “New Orleans has always been a city that lived on the edge, with Elysian Fields and cemeteries and the quest for paradise. When you live so close to death, behind the levees, you live more intensely, sexually, gastronomically, psychologically. Louis Armstrong came out of that unbelievable cultural breakthrough unprecedented in the history of American civilization. The rural blues, the urban jazz. It is the tragicomic lyricism that gives you the courage to get through the darkest storm. Charlie Parker would have killed somebody if he had not blown his horn. The history of black people in America is one of unbelievable resilience in the face of crushing white supremacist powers.”More than anywhere else in the US, New Orleans is a city where people live in one neighborhood their whole lives, where generations live in the same community. According to a recent census, of all US cities, New Orleans ranked second in the percentage of its population born in the state, at 83 percent. (Santa Ana, Calif., was first; Las Vegas last.) 54 percent of the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward had been in their homes for 10 years or more, far above the national average.All of this is to say that New Orleans is not just a tourist stop. New Orleans is a unique culture, one that is resilient, and with a history of community and resistance. And, despite everything, resistance continues.

The People’s Hurricane Fund has been doing direct outreach and organizing in cities across the US for their People’s Tribunal and March for Justice, scheduled for December 8-10 in Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans. They have organized communication centers in Jackson and New Orleans with plans for centers in Houston, Baton Rouge and Atlanta.On a national level, organizations such as have mobilized thousands of people to pressure politicians, and the Congressional Black Congress has worked to keep this issue alive, both through legislation, and through joining protests, as Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney did by showing up for a march from New Orleans to Gretna a few weeks ago.Meanwhile, just days after DC organizers announced plans for a protest at FEMA headquarters, FEMA officials announced that they were pushing back the date after which they would stop paying for hotels for Gulf Coast evacuees from December 1 to December 15. Continued pressure from across the US caused them to move the date again, to January 7.Here in New Orleans, volunteers with the Common Ground Collective have set up neighborhood distribution centers with food and supplies, have served hundreds of people in their free health clinic, setup a media center complete with a community radio station, and embarked on a project to rehabilitate houses in the Ninth Ward. This week, hundreds of volunteers have arrived to continue this work, most of them staying on mattresses on the floors of warehouses and houses, sometimes thirty or more to a room.

Any convergence of hundreds of mostly young and white activists in a overwhelmingly Black community is bound to bring skepticism and controversy, and Common Ground has received criticisms from some local organizers. However, Common Ground in many ways represents a big step forward for the global justice movement. Rather than coming in, leading a protest, and leaving, activists were invited by Malik Rahim, a longtime community organizer, and have followed through and done real work in communities. They have been true to their commitments, and have shown by example that people with a vision of radical change and social justice can put FEMA or Red Cross to shame.Finally, yesterday saw a major legal victory in the struggle for housing. According to the statement from the New Orleans Grassroots Legal Network, lawyers representing a range of organizations, “brought suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Orleans Parish, and Jefferson Parish on behalf of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, UNITE-HERE Local 50-2, SEIU Local 21, ACORN New Orleans, and individual tenants being victimized by landlords post-Hurricane Katrina. Because of the immense pressure that has been placed on the government and the landlords by the people, Plaintiffs were able to achieve the following result from this lawsuit:

(1) All evictions in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes are immediately stayed — meaning, all eviction proceedings in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes stop immediately against residents who are not in the area and whose whereabouts are unknown to landlords.

(2) Under the judge's order, FEMA is required, upon request, to provide to the Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, current contact information for the tenants who landlords are seeking to evict. Upon this contact information being provided by FEMA, the Parishes have to provide written notice of eviction to the tenants at the tenants' most current addresses. Tenants then have at least 45days from the date of the mailing of the notice respond to the eviction action.“This victory means that displaced people have an almost two-month reprieve from having to face loss of their personal property and their homes. This victory also means that for the first time FEMA has finally agreed to provide information to protect survivors. This is huge. “But overall, this case is just another step that the Grassroots Legal Network has taken to bring recognition that people who have suffered the worst impact by the natural and government disaster of Hurricane Katrina have a right to return to their homes. This victory also provides an opportunity for political and social rights activists to organize with grassroots people to assert pressure on those in power to respect their humanity.”

“This victory means that displaced people have an almost two-month reprieve from having to face loss of their personal property and their homes. This victory also means that for the first time FEMA has finally agreed to provide information to protect survivors. This is huge. “But overall, this case is just another step that the Grassroots Legal Network has taken to bring recognition that people who have suffered the worst impact by the natural and government disaster of Hurricane Katrina have a right to return to their homes. This victory also provides an opportunity for political and social rights activists to organize with grassroots people to assert pressure on those in power to respect their humanity.”All of this leaves me feeling, for the first time in a while, that all of this fighting really does mean something, and New Orleans lives on.

New Orleans' Mardi Gras parades to roll on

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans' colorful Mardi Gras parades will roll again next year, despite the hole that Hurricane Katrina punched in the city budget.

But there will be fewer floats and a shorter marching season because the city can't afford police overtime, officials said on Wednesday.

After days of talks, officials compromised and promised eight days of parades in the run-up to Fat Tuesday, which is the last day before Lent and which falls on February 28 next year.
"We owe it to our ancestors and our children to keep this celebration going. We just can't stop. This is so important for us," said a delighted Arthur Hardy, publisher of the Mardi Gras Guide and a Carnival historian.

"All indicators were that the city just wouldn't be able to pull this off, even as recently as 24 hours ago. Somehow, they managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat."

Shorter than the usual 12 days, next year's Mardi Gras will reflect the decimation of New Orleans' tax base by the exodus that followed the hurricane and the city could not afford overtime for police along the parade routes.

"It is a critical factor for us that we have no additional money," police chief Warren Riley told a news conference.

Some of the krewes, as the Carnival organizations are known, had threatened to move their parades to suburban Jefferson Parish if the city curtailed the parades.
Some "superkrewes," with names like Bacchus and Endymion, traditionally parade with dozens of huge floats and marching bands on the weekend before Fat Tuesday, and it takes them several hours to complete their routes.

Fans stake out prime territory before the popular parades with ladders and coolers. Many spend the night along the route to guarantee a prime spot to catch beads and other favors tossed out by the masked and costumed riders.

Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Parade seasons have been canceled 13 times, most recently during a 1979 police strike.

A controversial part of today's agreement would allow corporate sponsorship of the Carnival, something that Mardi Gras purists have kept at bay for years.

The city's arts and entertainment director, Ernest Collins, said corporate sponsorship was necessary to raise the $1.5 million in additional funds the city needs to host next year's parades next year, but it would be done in good taste.

"We don't want to see overt commercialization of Mardi Gras," he said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

FEMA kicks evacuees to the curb!

So there's no money for evacuees, huh?

But there's money for the Iraq war and every other military blunder.

FEMA to Stop Funding Hotel Rooms Dec. 1

By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 23 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - FEMA will stop paying for hotel rooms for most evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Dec. 1, officials said Tuesday as the agency pushed victims to find more stable housing.

Housing advocates said they fear that won't be enough time for an estimated 53,000 families — mostly in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi — who remain in hotels.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had previously set the December deadline as a potential goal to have evacuees out of hotels and into travel trailers, mobile homes or apartments until they find permanent homes. Tuesday's announcement marked the first time the agency said it would cease directly paying for hotel rooms that have cost FEMA $274 million since the storms struck.

FEMA granted exceptions to evacuees in hotels in Louisiana and Mississippi, where there is a shortage of housing. Evacuees in those states have until Jan. 7 to find homes, said David Garratt, FEMA's acting director of recovery. He said 9,830 households remain in hotels in Louisiana and 2,508 in Mississippi.

"There are still too many people living in hotel rooms, and we want to help them get into longer-term homes before the holidays," FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison said in a statement. "Across the country, there are readily available, longer-term housing solutions for these victims that can give greater privacy and stability than hotel and motel rooms."

"Those affected by these storms should have the opportunity to become self-reliant again and reclaim some normalcy in their lives," Paulison said.

After Dec. 1, most hurricane evacuees who aren't ready to leave hotels will have to pay the costs out of pocket — either with FEMA rental housing aid they receive or from their own funds.
Katrina hit on Aug. 29, followed by Rita on Sept. 24.

In Houston, Mayor Bill White demanded that FEMA grant a similar extension to the city as it moves 19,158 evacuees out of city hotels.

"We have moved more evacuees out of hotels than any other city has ever had in hotels," White said in a statement. "So we encourage those new to it to ask us, not tell us, how to do it."

The hotel program marked FEMA's second step in finding homes for hundreds of thousands of evacuees displaced after the storms. Over the last month, FEMA has moved 8,748 people out of emergency shelters and into hotels and other transitional housing, Garratt said. As of Tuesday, 2,491 evacuees remain in shelters, down from a high of 321,000, he said.

Also by Dec. 1, thousands of evacuees who receive FEMA housing aid in vouchers issued though state or local authorities will have to sign a rental lease to remain eligible for the funding. Three months later, on March 1, FEMA will end the voucher program and send housing aid directly to evacuees who qualify.

Additionally, the six-month leases for evacuees living on cruise ships will end March 1, Garratt said.

Housing advocates said that FEMA has not given evacuees enough time to find homes and sign leases — a process that can take months in rental markets already nearing capacity.
"It's a hell of a time to be telling people that they're kicked out a week after the holiday," said Doug Culkin, executive vice president of the National Apartment Association. He was referring to next week's Thanksgiving holiday.

"The coordination of this has just been horrible," Culkin said. "And we're just concerned that a lot of people aren't going to realize the predicament they're in until too late. People are not going to have adequate time to make plans."

In the last month, FEMA has deployed "strike teams" of federal, state and local authorities to meet with evacuees and discuss their long-term housing goals — and how to reach them. Now, FEMA will assign 3,000 social workers to manage evacuees' cases — a $66 million contract with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

So far, FEMA says it has provided $1.2 billion in transitional housing assistance to more than 500,000 households displaced by the hurricanes.

The Red Cross had not seen details of the plan Tuesday, but spokesman Michael Spencer said "the time has passed for emergency housing."

"Interim housing is the responsibility of the state and federal government, and we have to assume they have a plan in place," he said.

FEMA officials still don't know how many evacuees in hotels have registered with the agency for housing aid, and it's possible that many will not qualify for direct rental assistance, Garratt said. Those who will not will be referred to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for help, he said.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Changing New Orleans--Jordan's Log 11-4-05

Its bittersweet being back in New Orleans. Although the architecture is the same, and its a relief to walk the streets and reunite with old friends, already this is a very different city from the one I love. Its a city where some areas are quickly rebuilding and other parts are being left far behind. A city where people who have lived here for generations are now unwelcome in a hundred different ways. White New Orleans is steadily coming back, and Black New Orleans is moving out. A grassroots organizer with New Orleans Network tells me she has been speaking to people in every moving truck she sees. She reports that in every case, “they’re Black, they are renters, they’re moving out of New Orleans, and they say they would stay, if they had a choice.”

Inequality continues through the cleanup of New Orleans. Some areas have electricity, gas, and clean streets, and some areas are untouched. Medical volunteer Catherine Jones reports that driving the streets of New Orleans at night, “ I felt like I was in the middle of a checkerboard. The Quarter lit up like Disneyworld; poor black neighborhoods a few blocks over so dark I couldn't even see the street in front of me.”The Washington Post reports that although both the overwhelmingly White Lakeview neighborhood and Black Ninth Ward neighborhood were devastated by flooding, “It now appears that long-standing neighborhood differences in income and opportunity...are shaping the stalled repopulation of this mostly empty city.”

While Lower Ninth Ward residents are still being kept from returning to their homes, “Lakeview, where 66 percent of children go to private school and 49 percent of residents have a college degree, was pumped dry within three weeks of the storm. Memphis Street (in Lakeview) smells now of bleach, which kills mold, and resounds to the thwack of crowbars and the whine of chain saws. Insurance adjusters have begun making rounds.”A similar story is unfolding in South Florida, where the Miami Workers Center reports, “Close to 24 hours after Wilma struck, power returned to Miami's affluent and tourist districts such as South Beach, Downtown and the Brickell Financial District. In the past week, power has returned to most suburban communities. But power has been slowest returning to black, latino, and immigrant poor urban neighborhoods. Many of the 400,000 still in the dark have been told not to expect power until as late as November 22nd.”

Miami Workers center volunteer Terry Marshall reports, “this experience is showing...that it’s not a question of where the hurricane hits. It’s a question of where the resources are missed.”New Orleans was, as more than one former resident has said, the African city in North America. It is a city steeped in a culture that is specifically African American - from Jazz to blues to bounce. It is the number one African American tourist destination in the US. The Bayou Classic and Essence Festival, two vital Black community events, bring tens of thousands of Black tourists to the city every year. Walking around town, its hard to imagine these tourists coming back to the new New Orleans - a city was once 70% Black and now feels unwelcome and hostile - or at least uncaring - to its own past.

Last Wednesday alone, 335 evictions were filed in New Orleans courts - the amount normally filed in a month. There have been countless reports of landlords throwing tenant’s property out on the street without any notice. New Orleans human rights lawyer Bill Quigley reports that “Fully armed National Guard troops refuse to allow over ten thousand people to even physically visit their property in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. Despite the fact that people cannot come back, tens of thousands of people face eviction from their homes. A local judge told me that their court expects to process a thousand evictions a day for weeks. Renters still in shelters or temporary homes across the country will never see the court notice taped to the door of their home. Because they will not show up for the eviction hearing that they do not know about, their possessions will be tossed out in the street. In the street their possessions will sit alongside an estimated 3 million truck loads of downed trees, piles of mud, fiberglass insulation, crushed sheetrock, abandoned cars, spoiled mattresses, wet rugs, and horrifyingly smelly refrigerators full of food from August.”

A recent poll from Gallup reports that, even adjusting for differences in income, White and Black New Orleanians have had deeply different experiences of this disaster. Blacks were more likely to fear for their lives (63% vs. 39%), to have been separated from family members for at least a day (55% vs. 45%), gone without food for at least a day (53% vs. 24%) and spent at least one night in an emergency shelter (34% vs. 13%).The New York Times and other papers have reprinted former FEMA director Michael Brown’s emails from the time when our city was being flooded - stunning evidence of how little the agency cared about what was happening in New Orleans. “If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god,” reads a typical email from the day after the hurricane hit. Other emails showed Brown and his staffers to be more concerned with his dinner reservations in Baton Rouge and a dog sitter for his house than with anything happening in New Orleans.

The demographics of New Orleans have changed in gender as well as race. The thousands of contractors and laborers that have arrived from across the country - in addition to National Guard, police agencies, security guards, and other workers - are overwhelmingly male. Because most schools are closed, there are few kids below 17 or their families. Women I know who have returned report feeling uncomfortable and unsafe.A large Latino immigrant population has come to work in the city’s reconstruction. These workers have been demonized by everyone from Mayor Nagin to local talk radio. Grassroots medical volunteers report that some of the workers are forbidden by their employers from talking to anyone or even leaving their rooms at night. They are working in hazardous conditions, for low pay and little safety protection - already many have become ill, and they have no access to medical care, and face a hostile city.

There are still thousands of New Orleans residents who have not been convicted of any crime trapped in maximum security prisons and “no one in a position of power finds this pressing,” says Ursula Price, a staff researcher with A Fighting Chance, an indigent defense group. She estimates at least 2000 prisoners from Orleans Parish Prison remain in Angola, the notorious former slave plantation in rural Louisiana. These are people who were picked up for “misdemeanor offenses such as public drunkenness, traffic violations, soliciting a prostitute,” Price says. If convicted, at most they would have served less time than they have been in for. But, in Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish, courts have been closed for most of this time, and public defenders have been laid off. “The system is not working with us,” Price tells me. “I don't understand why prosecutors are in there arguing against release of someone on a misdemeanor charge. We have women who have had miscarriages, mental heath problems, physical health problems, and no one in power seems to care.” The total population of Orleans Parish Prison at the time of hurricane Katrina was at least 7,000 people. In a city of just 500,000, that's a significant population.

The people of New Orleans are not just physically displaced, but also disenfranchised from their city in other ways. According to the Wall Street Journal, when FEMA officials were asked by Louisiana state officials for access to the FEMA database so that they could inform New Orleans evacuees about their right to vote in upcoming municipal elections, the response was a terse email - “(FEMA) will not let you have a copy of the FEMA applicant list. Sorry!!!” What better way to let people know that the city is not theirs than to have an election to which they are not invited?Many in New Orleans are struggling with an even more basic and vital concern - the recovery of their loved ones. Less than a quarter of the bodies so far reported discovered in New Orleans have been turned over to families. The rest are at the New Orleans coroners, currently relocated to St. Gabriel’s Parish. “Officials in coroner's offices in several parishes reported that they sought to keep their victims from going to St. Gabriel,” reports today's Times-Picayune, which describes one families long ordeal in recovering their mother’s body. Just one more area where people of New Orleans are left behind.

While this tragedy multiplies, while evictions mount and exploitation increases, the former residents of New Orleans have their choice of a dizzying array of forums, hearings, panels, tribunals, town halls, committees, subcommittees, commissions, meetings, marches and demonstrations, most of which are seeking the input of the people of new orleans. In the space of two days last week, I went to a public meeting with a representative from the UN High Commission on extreme poverty. I went to a meeting of the housing subcommittee of the urban planning committee of the mayors blue ribbon commission on rebuilding New Orleans. I joined a rally at the State Capitol featuring Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, and various Government officials. At each event I saw hundreds of poor folks from New Orleans. I also met representatives of a community group for East New Orleans residents displaced to Baton Rouge - they report that 500 people come to their weekly meetings.

This Monday, I will march across the bridge from New Orleans to Gretna, to join in protests called by a wide array of national organizations against a crime Cynthia McKinney has said "might become the worst American civil rights episode of the 21st Century," the blockade by Gretna police of the only exit out of New Orleans for thousands of evacuees. I also plan to join the People's Assembly initiated by the People's Hurricane Fund on December 8-10.There are many outlets for action, as well as plenty of anger and energy, but also a deep skepticism. The people of New Orleans have a justified distrust of the people and institutions who have arrived with promises and resources. Hundreds of well-meaning volunteers have come in to town, and many have done vital work, but in some cases this has increased tensions. “Some people have come here with this attitude, ‘we’re bringing organizing to New Orleans.’ They don’t seem interested in what was here before,” reports one community organizer.

These divisions are not only concentrated on the grassroots - disagreements within the mayor’s commission on rebuilding New Orleans have become increasingly public, with some representatives complaining to the New York Times of not being invited to private breakfasts between the mayor and other commission members."The truth is," said one longtime activist, "people have a lot of anger and grief, and they don't where to direct it." We are all tired, frustrated and sad, but the struggle for justice continues.

Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. This is his tenth article from New Orleans. You can contact Jordan at
Jordan’s previous articles from New Orleans are at

Yahoo Newslings!

Xavier University Struggles to Survive

FEMA Accessing Damage to Louisiana Hospitals

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Post Eid-New Orleans News

No plan to return power to New Orleans
Someone needs to end the power monopoly of Entergy

Louisiana can't pay Katrina/Rita bills
Hmm, t'aint that a surprise?

Prince Charles, Camilla to Visit New Orleans
Maybe they can help in the rebuilding efforts.

Some Funding for Katrina Victims

***FEMA OKs maximum Katrina relief payments. Many owners in areas with worst damage to receive $26,200***

MSN.comBy Spencer S. Hsu

Updated: 1:25 a.m. ET Nov. 5, 2005

Faced with the daunting task of inspecting hundreds of thousands of damaged homes, federal officials have decided to award the maximum relief aid possible to people in neighborhoods presumed destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun notifying 60,000 renters and property owners in nine Louisiana and Mississippi parishes and counties that they will immediately receive as much as $26,200, the most Congress has authorized for individual households battered by Katrina. The determination of who gets the money is being based on satellite imagery of the worst flooding or wind damage, broken down by Zip code, where individual inspections have not been done.

Although it may be possible that some homes in those areas escaped serious damage and their owners do not require the aid, FEMA has decided not to wait for case-by-case inspections.
"It is presumed these homes are uninhabitable, and these persons will be eligible for the maximum amount they can receive," said FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews. "Basically if you lived here, . . . if you lost everything you owned, which is presumable, you'll probably receive the $26,200," though renters will receive less.

Louisiana tab could exceed $40 billionThe move was not formally announced by FEMA but will complete the agency's cash obligation to a large number of victims of Katrina, which hit on Aug. 29. With the onset of cold weather, officials have estimated that as many as 600,000 families require long-term housing. The agency's multibillion-dollar plans to temporarily place people aboard cruise ships, in hotels, mobile homes or trailers have been criticized as wasteful and ill-conceived.
• More Hurricane Katrina news The aid would not be discounted by any money for hotels FEMA is paying for 200,000 residents who fled the storm. But it would be offset by any other FEMA cash aid -- including rental assistance for apartments -- those people may be receiving. The affected nine-digit Zip codes are in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Plaquemines parishes in Louisiana, and Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties in Mississippi.

FEMA said yesterday that its estimated cost in Louisiana alone will be $41.4 billion, about five times what it spent on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York. The state's share would be $3.7 billion -- the equivalent of about half of Louisiana's state annual general fund.
So far, 2.8 million households have applied for federal aid from Katrina and from Hurricane Rita, which struck the Texas and Louisiana coast three weeks later, Andrews said. Based on past disasters, about two-thirds will qualify for help.

The $26,200 is the most money homeowners can receive. There are eligibility limits and restrictions on what the money can be spent on, but it can pay for home repairs, for temporary housing and to replace a car.

House inspections are continuing outside the devastated areas covered by FEMA's decision. Officials are scrambling to find adequate housing for those people in hotels, with the goal of having all of them out by Dec. 1. The apartment assistance program for 496,000 families begins to phase out on Dec. 23, although FEMA could decide to extend the help for some individuals.

**White House OKs low-income housing vouchers

Barbara Sard, housing policy director for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the Bush administration last week dedicated $390 million to move as many as 65,000 Katrina families who were homeless or in public housing before the storm into the Section 8 low-income rental assistance voucher program, a change advocates had sought.
Sard encouraged the White House to convert apartment assistance program into a similar voucher program. "How can you make case-by-case decisions on 400,000 people without making wildly different results for similarly situated people?" Sard asked. "How is that fair and how can anyone plan, recognizing you've got a very difficult situation?"

FEMA used such a voucher program to house 22,000 families displaced by the 1994 Northridge earthquake near Los Angeles at a cost of $200 million, said Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution's metropolitan policy center and a former Clinton housing official.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Some Newlings: Eid Mubarak New Orleans!!!!

Family Loses Home to Katrina, Son to War

Brown Discussed Wardrobe During Katrina