- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009



It’s almost incomprehensible that two-thirds of the money that the Federal Emergency Management Agency promised in 2005 to Louisiana and Mississippi in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita remains unspent. While $5.8 billion in federal aid was promised, more than $3.9 billion remains unspent to make permanent repairs and replacements for public works damaged by the hurricanes. (The figure excludes $15 billion in repairs and upgrades for levees protecting New Orleans). In a he-said, she-said manner, state and local officials blame FEMA for too many restrictions on how the money can be spent, underestimating the cost of repairs, and even in some cases not paying the bills when projects are completed, while FEMA says most of the delays are caused by local governments trying to get more money from the federal government than the legal limits allow.

The federal government, it seems to us, should be the responsible adult here and fix whatever problems exist; for various reasons expecting Louisiana and New Orleans and other lower-level entities to function with maturity and sufficient expertise is unrealistic. Nearly three years after the hurricanes hit, leaving two-thirds of the funds for public works unutilized is un-flipping-satisfactory. To her credit, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a “fresh look” at the problems; she received an oral report Feb. 10 and will get a written report next Tuesday.

It was ironic enough in the aftermath of Katrina when President George Bush told then-FEMA director Michael Brown, “You’ve done a heck of a job, Brownie.” FEMA is adding insult to injury in 2009. Truly, the Keystone Cops could do better.

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