Sunday, March 25, 2007

Obstacles to Recovery ...

By Russ Britt, MarketWatch:

Red tape, insurance, builder shortage pose roadblocks to road home

New Orleans' residents and businesses remain anxious to get back on their feet, but roadblocks remain in the Big Easy's path to recovery 18 months after Hurricane Katrina poked holes in the city's levee system and flooded three-fourths of it.

Any one of several challenges could derail attempts by the city, as well as areas around Louisiana afflicted by Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which hit the region a few weeks later.

They range from bureaucratic snafus over aid programs and skyrocketing insurance rates, to builder shortages and a perceived snubbing from federal officials toward the area. At the very least, these issues are slowing the recovery.

"We're making a little progress every day, taking a step forward. That about all we can hope for," said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The most pressing issue is Road Home, a program designed to provide up to $150,000 in grants to those living in the single-family homes they own, and want to rebuild. The $7.5 billion program, which got underway in the latter half of 2006, is federally funded via community block grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and administered by the state.

While some residents with insurance have rebuilt, the vast majority of property owners in the region will lean heavily on Road Home monies to get going again, particularly in the poorer Lower Ninth Ward, which still resembles a war zone. Since it's been more than a year and a half since the storm, most have grown impatient with the program's lack of progress.

Road Home has been beset by a series of problems and a volume of work that seems to have overwhelmed administrators ICF International. Among them are software problems, major disputes over property values and complaints of unresponsiveness from staff members.

More next time ...


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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