Panel hears estimates, pleas for long-term Gulf Coast aid

Trying to get a handle on the long-term costs of recovery from Hurricane Katrina and related disasters, the House Budget Committee learned Thursday that the more than $100 billion already provided by Congress will not be enough.

With some estimates for capital losses amounting to as much as $150 billion and a State of Louisiana estimate of economic losses of up to $200 billion, the committee seemed to reel at the prospect for making room over the next several years in federal budgets for recovery programs.

Some members questioned whether federal officials are leaning on states and localities hard enough to trim any waste, fraud or abuse in meeting the needs of the four Gulf states hammered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita two years ago.

States and local governments are mainly responsible, with oversight from various federal agencies, for administering the recovery programs.

Testimony submitted by the Government Accountability Office, Congressional Budget Office and Donald Powell, the chief federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding, showed that the numbers already appropriated and spent on the cleanup are mounting.

Both GAO and CBO largely concurred that Congress and the Bush administration had provided nearly $95 billion in five emergency spending bills for "immediate relief and long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast region," as a report delivered by CBO Director Peter Orszag put it.

In addition to direct appropriations, Congress has authorized $17 billion in federally backed loans to the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as $16 billion in tax breaks for hurricane victims between 2006 and 2016.

The bulk of the money goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Of the $45.3 billion for FEMA, about $30.1 billion already has been spent. HUD, so far, has gotten $16.2 billion and doled out $4.8 billion, mostly for housing programs to replace and repair public and private housing stock and for rental assistance.

On the latter issue, the Rev. Donald Boutte, pastor of St. John Baptist Church in New Orleans, implored the committee to set aside budget allocations for more money for construction of rental units in his city.

Not only has the loss depleted the availability of decent, low-cost housing in the city, he said, the shortage of affordable housing has led to soaring rents.

"Today, entry-level school teachers, new police officers, construction workers and even some clergy are in serious need of affordable housing," Boutte said.

On another note, Powell said the Corps has strengthened the Louisiana levees so that "hurricane protection in southeast Louisiana is better than it has ever been." More than 220 miles of levees and floodwalls have been repaired or restored, he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.