A year-and-a-half after Katrina hundreds of thousands of ex-New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents are stuck in FEMA trailer parks from Alabama to Arkansas, dumped there and forgotten by the Bush Administration. The Emperor got his photo op, made his empty promises, and promptly forgot both the promises and the people he made them to. I realize that eight fired US Attorneys is important and that the scandals are coming thicker and faster than anybody can keep up with them now that the Republics can’t use the Congress to give him cover, but why isn’t somebody – just one person, I don’t care who, asking about the unconscionable abandonment of Katrina survivors?
New Orleans is still mostly a wasteland, and the hardest-hit towns along the Gulf Coast aren’t much better off. Yet, despite a recent dust-up on the House floor over the mess in Mississippi that got some attention, not one reporter questioned Bush at his press conference about the plight of the Gulf Coast or the difference between the flood of money he promised and the trickle he delivered.
The supposed “pork” in the supplemental Bush is threatening to veto includes $1.6B for Gulf Coast relief – a significant number (though not nearly sufficient) compared to the mere millions allowed to filter through his cost-cutting net, most of which wound up in the pockets of politically-connected Bush Buddies. Meanwhile, public works are stymied.
Nineteen months after the storm sent nine feet of water through it, [St. Bernard Parish Fire Station No. 6] remains unusable. One wall is missing; the ceiling has fallen in; a uniform still on its hanger lies crumpled amid the dried mud and tumbled furniture.
None of St. Bernard Parish’s 10 fire houses have been rebuilt, even though local officials estimate that 26,000 people have returned to the area, just east of New Orleans. In fact, across southern Louisiana and Mississippi, many school buildings remain closed, public water systems leak, roads crumble and libraries molder. Local governments cannot afford to fix them, and billions of dollars in recovery assistance promised by the federal government have only started to trickle to the region.
(Photo by Cheryl Gerber/NYT)
Why, given the amounts (some $5Bil) even the Republic Congress allocated in the immediate aftermath? Because the Bush Administration is using a bureaucratic technicality to prevent relief money from being released.
Local and state government officials have blamed a federal law for the failure to invest in these public works. They associate the problem with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988, the federal law that finances the rebuilding of local government infrastructure. It imposes requirements for receiving money that many towns and parishes here say they cannot meet.
The Stafford law, intended to prevent fraud, requires local governments to put up 10 percent of the cost of building projects and to advance money for repairs and rebuilding in the hope of being reimbursed later.
But state and local officials say they have no money to put up for the match, which the federal government has refused to waive for Hurricane Katrina recovery, even though it did so for New York City after Sept. 11 and for Florida after Hurricane Andrew.
How much clearer could they make it that the hold-up of relief for the Gulf Coast is deliberate? All the Emperor has to do is sign a waiver just like the one he signed for his brother, and Bingo! Money flows.
He refuses. Why?
More importantly, why isn’t this as big a scandal as the attorneys? Bigger, since it includes callous treatment of refugees, broken promises, and an undeniably deliberate withholding of aid? People are without power, water, fire protection, schools, sewage, or travelable roads 18 months after the disaster because Bush won’t sign a piece of paper to release the money? Why isn’t this in screaming front-page headlines? Because the vast majority of those affected are poor and black?
How can you explain this except as an integral part of the Bush Class/Race War? By refusing to waive Stafford, Bush has effectively reneged on every promise he made after Katrina and dumped the cost of recovery into the laps of local govts so devastated by the storm that they no longer have a tax base.
FEMA said that it had paid the state $2.83 billion to pass on to local governments, but that the state had distributed only $1.28 billion as of March 23.
The state has said it has not distributed all the money in part because it does its own screening to make sure projects are eligible. Almost all of the money that has been distributed has been for emergency expenses like overtime pay, debris removal and generators. So far, the biggest complaint in Louisiana was about the requirement that local governments pay 10 percent of the costs of their reconstruction programs. The cash is not there in areas like devastated St. Bernard Parish, where every government building was flooded and the tax base remains damaged.
“I’m not sure how we would pay anything,” said David E. Peralta, the chief administrative officer of the parish. “I don’t have any money.”
Why won’t Bush do what he did for Jeb? Here’s the excuse:
The Bush administration said it gave Louisiana hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to cover the local matches and so has refused to waive that requirement outright. But the federal grant money was funneled through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and came with significant strings, which state officials said could make it unusable.
Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, has been trying to get Congress to waive the match. The pending spending bill for Iraq includes a measure for that, but President Bush has opposed the waiver (and has threatened to veto the bill because it includes a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq).
Bush is using HUD to prevent re-building of black and poor sections of the city and as a barrier to letting the matching funds through to state and local govts, and HUD Sec Alphonso Jackson is letting him get away with it. Maybe that’s because Jackson, who used to be President of American Electric Power-TEXAS, a $13 billion utility company, before he came to HUD, can’t – or won’t – relate to the poor black refugees even though he’s black. Maybe he only sees importance in funneling money to corporations.
Or maybe it’s because, like so many other loyal Bushies, he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
Whatever the reason, he’s a Bush patsy and he, along with the rest of the BA, ought to be on the front pages every fucking day until the Gulf Coast is returned to normal.
But they aren’t.