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February 16, 2012

Katrina Recovery Report Shows Slow Project Completion

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the closeout status of Public Assistance projects as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The report, entitled: Efforts to Expedite Disaster Recovery in Louisiana, found that as of July 2011, FEMA had obligated $10.2 billion in Public Assistance grants to support Louisiana's recovery projects – which are supposed to have 48 month deadlines. However, in the 6 years since Hurricane Katrina only 6.3 percent (or 1,178) of Public Assistance projects in Louisiana have been completed and closed-out.

In comparison, Mississippi had a 76.6 percent close-out rate. The Inspector General report listed inconsistent regulations between FEMA and Louisiana and limited state resources as the primary reasons for this lag in project completion. The IG recommends that DHS and FEMA develop new policies and timelines to ensure projects are closed out in a timely manner – and develop a plan to close completed projects and expedite open projects.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Congressman from the Gulf Region, released the following statement regarding the report:

"This weekend, FEMA announced the removal of the last Katrina trailer from New Orleans. These trailers were a constant reminder of the massive destruction and attendant suffering experienced by people in the Gulf following Katrina. I am glad to see them go. However, today, in less hopeful news, the OIG released a report which found that over 6 years after Hurricane Katrina, only 6% of the Public Assistance projects in Louisiana which receive Federal funding have been completed. This kind of lag in recovery efforts affects not only the people who suffered from this disaster, but jeopardizes recovery throughout the Gulf Coast. Thankfully, three-quarters of the projects in Mississippi have been completed. Both FEMA and the state must work together to facilitate rebuilding. I am encouraged that FEMA has agreed with the recommendations and I hope to work with FEMA and Louisiana to ensure that completed projects are recorded and uncompleted projects are finally finished."

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Congressman from New Orleans, added the following regarding the report:

"This report underscores the case I've been making to FEMA for years—their policies don't always work for a disaster the magnitude of Katrina. The federal response was slow, inadequate and incompetent, and this report demonstrates that. I am pleased that the FEMA today is not the same FEMA that was in place during Katrina and I will continue to push FEMA to get the necessary funds to Louisiana so we can complete the long process of recovery."

Link to Report

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Media Contact:
(Thompson) Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978
(Richmond) Virgil Miller at (202) 225-3727