Showing posts with label Road Home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Road Home. Show all posts

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The third hosing is the charm

First comes Katrina and a demonstration of just how well the feds build levees and floodwalls.

Then comes the unending bureaucratic nightmare involved in trying to rebuild what Uncle Sam destroyed.

And just when you think you see that light at the end of the tunnel . . . it turns out to be the 8:15 to Houston, it has a full head of steam, and the engineer is drunk at the throttle.

That's right boys and girls, the Road Home program bites Louisianians in the ass yet again, as reported here by The Associated Press:
Imagine that your home was reduced to mold-covered wood framing by Hurricane Katrina. Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government provided-trailer that gives off formaldehyde fumes you finally win a federal grant.

Then a collector announces that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.

For thousands of Katrina victims, this may be a reality.

A private contractor under investigation for the compensation it received to run the Road Home grant program for Katrina victims says that in the rush to deliver aid to homeowners in need some people got too much. Now it wants to hire a separate company to collect millions in grant overpayments.

The contractor, ICF International of Fairfax, Va., revealed the extent of the overpayments when it issued a March 11 request for bids from companies willing to handle "approximately 1,000 to 5,000 cases that will necessitate collection effort."

The bid invitation said: "The average amount to be collected is estimated to be approximately $35,000, but in some cases may be as high as $100,000 to $150,000."

The biggest grant amount allowed by the Road Home program is $150,000, so ICF believes it paid some recipients the maximum when they should not have received a penny. If ICF's highest estimate of 5,000 collection cases — overpaid by an average of $35,000 — proves to be true, that means applicants will have to pay back a total of $175 million.

One-third of qualified applicants for Road Home help had yet to receive any rebuilding check as of this past week. The program, which has come to symbolize the lurching Katrina recovery effort, has $11 billion in federal funds.

ICF spokeswoman Gentry Brann said in an e-mail Friday that the overpayment recovery effort was made inevitable when insurance and other aid to Katrina victims was eventually measured against what an applicant received from the Road Home program.

Brann said there was a sense of urgency in paying Road Home applicants, and ICF knew applicants might eventually have to return some money.

"The choice was either to process grants immediately or wait until the March 2008 deadline (for submitting Road Home applications) before disbursing any funds," Brann said in her e-mail.

Brann pointed out that 5,000 collections cases would represent a 4-percent error rate for the Road Home that is "quite good for large federal programs."
EVERY TIME I try to formulate a comment on this, I just keep falling into black-hearted, seeing-red fury and thoughts that mass violence might be an appropriate response, given that this follows nearly two years of red tape, bureaucratic bungling and extreme delays in getting compensation for anyone.

James Kunstler would name -- has named, actually -- a blog after just the sort of mess contractor ICF has made the Road Home program into. And now this.

And the hell of it is, professional liars (or so it would seem, at least) employed by the contractor expect us to believe the company has done a bang-up job with the whole thing.

If I'm Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, here's my response: I call all the top ICF executives to Baton Rouge for "urgent consultations" on the program. Make it mandatory that all the top executives of the company attend to "hash things out."

When they arrive at the governor's office for the meeting, state troopers immediately take them into custody. Fraud charges are filed. Bail is denied.

And then the state prosecutes with all the speed ICF has exhibited in paying out awards to flooded-out Louisiana homeowners. As those execs sit in the general population of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Justice requires it.