Watchdog: Millions in Katrina Aid Unaccounted For

This aerial photo from 2005 shows the devastation caused by the high winds and heavy flooding in the greater New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina. This aerial photo from 2005 shows the devastation caused by the high winds and heavy flooding in the greater New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina. Vincent Laforet/AP File Photo

Nearly $700 million in federal aid for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is unaccounted for, according to a new report from a government watchdog.

More than 24,000 homeowners in Louisiana who received millions in disaster recovery grants after the 2005 storms either did not comply with the terms of the aid, were nonresponsive, or did not provide sufficient documentation of how they spent the money as of August 2012, the Housing and Urban Development Department’s inspector general found.

“Therefore the state did not have conclusive evidence that the $698.5 million in Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds had been used to elevate homes,” the March 2013 report stated. The IG was following up on its March 2010 review of Louisiana’s elevation incentive program, part of the state’s $9 billion Road Home Program to help people rebuild after Katrina and Rita. The $940.5 million elevation incentive program offered eligible homeowners grants of up to $30,000; in return homeowners agreed to comply with elevation requirements and with building and manufactured housing codes in their area within three years, as well as maintain homeowner and flood insurance.

Louisiana, which developed a program to monitor homeowners who received federal funds and identify those who haven’t met the program requirements, is working with HUD to ensure greater compliance and responsiveness, said Patrick Forbes, executive director of the state’s Office of Community Development. “Rather than immediately embarking on the process of recapturing funds from all applicants who do not currently have all required compliance documentation in their files, [the state office] believes it is prudent to bring more applicants into compliance through ongoing file completion, elevation activities and working with HUD to approve and implement action plan amendments, reserving grant recovery for those applicants who cannot achieve compliance through these and or other means,” Forbes wrote in response to the IG report.

The IG findings have prompted concern over how the government plans to manage the nearly $16 million in disaster recovery aid for the Northeast after October 2012’s devastating megastorm Sandy. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sent an April 1 letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan asking how the department will ensure that money is properly spent and accounted for. “HUD must be diligent in its oversight of elevation funds as they are granted, and not years later,” Coburn wrote. President Obama designated Donovan to oversee the federal response to Sandy.

Disasters create different categories of need and the government’s way of prioritizing those needs can perplex victims as well as federal and state officials. HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for instance, are only two of several agencies that administer disaster assistance, and figuring out who is eligible for what kind of aid often is as confusing and overwhelming as the disaster itself.

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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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