Sunday, April 01, 2007

Obstacles - ICF ...

More from MarketWatch:

Walter Leger is a local attorney and board member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. Each Wednesday, Leger appears on a weekly radio show hosted by local broadcast personality Garland Robinette where he fields questions and plays an ersatz Robin Hood for property owners frustrated by the Road Home process.

Leger offers to confront ICF for a caller who says he told the company more than the $82,000 should be awarded to him. When he said he planned to appeal their decision, he promptly was told his award would be reduced to zero. (ICF officials insist homeowners are allowed to appeal.)

Then Leger hears from a caller who laments his parents were given an award letter from ICF three months before a check actually showed up in their hands.

"We all realize that it's slower than we hoped for," Leger says as he tries to console the caller.

Leger says that ICF, which just now is beginning to hand out checks to homeowners, appears to be making progress. But he'll believe it when he sees it.

"It seems like we've made a turn," Leger said. "But we're cautiously optimistic."

David Fukutomi, special assistant to the manager of ICF's Road Home program, contends that each of the estimated 113,000 properties that are eligible for funds need to be examined case-by-case, an arduous and time-consuming process.

He adds the program didn't really kick into gear until six months ago and is processing a number of affected properties that has been unheard of before, all the while administering a program that is one of a kind. Further, he says residents are putting too much stock in the program.

"The Road Home was never intended to be a program that funded your entire rebuilding or replacement of your home," he said. "It was meant to be sort of a big helping hand of which you could receive up to $150,000, based on certain criteria."

The average Road Home award is about $81,000, he says. ICF plans to have all the homes processed by year's end, Fukutomi added, which he says will be a year ahead of schedule.

But the damage may already have been done to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who attached her name to the program. Up for re-election this year, Blanco readily acknowledges that the ordeal poses a problem for her second gubernatorial bid.

She says she tried to avoid the red tape by hiring ICF from the private sector instead of having a governmental entity administer the program.

"Well, they've been a dismal failure, too. So, you know, where do you look?" Blanco said. "I don't think there'll ever be a simple time. I think that everything will be complicated for a number of years. I just think that if people haven't seen the level of devastation, it's hard for them to understand."

More next time ...


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