Saturday, August 04, 2007

Updated: More Road Home Disasters

I've written before about Louisiana's Road Home program. Here's a brief update with some recent news, but first, a quick summary for new readers: it is the official state-created, federally-funded program for helping homeowners get back on their feet after Katrina. Allegedly, all homeowners who lost at least half their home's value in the storm are eligible for up to $150,000 in aid. The program, however, has been an unmitigated disaster. The company handling the grants, ICF International, drags its feet in calculating and distributing the grants; during the program's first three months of operation, 90,000 people applied, but only 97 were paid. Today, there have been 174,262 applicants, 111,820 of who have been told how much they will recieve and 39,126 of who have actually recieved it. Worse yet, benefits are often miscalculated, the program has run out of money, and the feds are not likely, according to recovery czar Donald Powell, to give it more.

Sounds pretty lousy, huh? Well, never say things can't get worse, because they always can. The Road Home announced a deadline for homeowners to apply, even though it was originally supposed to be open-ended. H/T Voices of New Orleans.

"The state-run Road Home program was originally an open-ended deal, but legislators put a deadline of July 31 on it. Homeowners have been scrambling to meet that deadline even though they aren't sure what sort of money the program will have to distribute: (From the AP) 'Residents have until today to request up to $150,000 from the state-administered Road Home program. It is funded with $6.4 billion, but if everyone eligible applied, it would face an estimated $5 billion shortfall.'"

The AP article VONO quotes goes on to say, "Even with the $1 billion boost, the authority estimates the program will run out of money by mid-December without additional cash. It estimates 49,000 eligible homeowners won't receive grants if Congress doesn't provide extra funding."

To be fair, the program has been in operation almost a year, and started a year after the storm initially hit. That's more than enough time for any Louisiana resident to find out about the grants and apply. It may not be enough time, however, for everyone to make up their minds about what their future holds, particularly given the slower-than-anticipated pace of recovery, and applying for a Road Home grant requires that the applicant committ to staying in New Orleans. There are a number of recovery snafus worse than setting a Road Home application deadline (like not fully funding the program and leaving citizens out in the cold), but it still rubs me the wrong way, particularly since it means going back on the original promise of an open-ended deal.

UPDATE: The Biloxi Sun Herald reports,
"The mailed forms aren't all in yet, but nearly 9,000 homeowners filed last-day applications for the state's Road Home hurricane repair and buyout program by phone, online and in person, bringing the total to more than 180,000, a spokeswoman said. Even without the mailed form, which had to be postmarked Tuesday, the last-day total is far greater than any other single day, Gentry Brann said....

Midnight Tuesday also was the application deadline for the second round of the Road Home small rental property program. Owners of one- to four-unit buildings, including town homes and condominiums, could apply for up to $100,000. Some 82,000 rental units in Louisiana suffered major or severe damage during Katrina and Rita. The small rental program only has enough money to fix an estimated 18,000 units."

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