"The Great City of New Orleans, will be rebuilt." -- President Bush, speaking after Hurricane Katrina.
Facing some pressure to provide another installment of aid for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, which had been stuck on $62 billion (of an estimated $250 billion cost) since the early days after the disaster, Congress ponied up another $29 billion this week. Well, sort of.
Turns out that all except five billion of it came from the FEMA disaster relief fund. This is the fund that has been used to provide housing and pay other expenses for people displaced by the storm. That has never been included as part of the cost of 'rebuilding.'
WASHINGTON - An aid package to help the Gulf Coast rebuild after Hurricane Katrina will be siphoned from a dwindling FEMA disaster fund, leaving agency officials wondering Thursday whether they will need more money to help storm evacuees beyond next spring.
All but $5 billion of the $29 billion aid package, which won final congressional approval Thursday, will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund. The fund had a $34.7 billion balance last week, meaning FEMA will have about $11 billion left to help move thousands of evacuated families from hotels into homes and for other assistance.
"I think we're going to have enough," FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison told reporters. "We're watching it very closely."
FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews later said President Bush probably will seek more money from Congress early next year to replenish the relief fund, which is chiefly for immediate aid for disaster victims and state and local governments.
Note that word, 'probably.'
This is a Congress which cut funding for New Orleans levees before the storm (Never forget the prescient words of Jefferson Parish emergency management director Walter Maestri when he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on June 8, 2004, a full year before Katrina: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."), and as a result of this kind of reckless budget-cutting (and it now turns out that Katrina was a category III, which the levees were supposed to be designed for, so therefore it may well have been a maintenance problem rather than a design problem), managed to LOSE A MAJOR AMERICAN CITY, and yet is STILL trying to wiggle out from having to actually PAY for the damage.
Robbing the refugees with a promise that they will 'probably' get the help they need in the future is not the way to finance reconstruction.