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Sunday, September 24, 2006

FEMA has $91 Million for the Superdome -- Meanwhile, People are Still Living in Trailers

This is one of the big stories today -- cable news has it in heavy rotation:

Associated Press:

If the roof comes off of the New Orleans Superdome again tomorrow night, it'll be caused by the cheers of the football fans inside -- and not by a hurricane.

That's the prediction of the arena's manager, Glenn Menard, as officials prepare to reopen the indoor stadium for the first time since it became an emergency shelter during Hurricane Katrina more than a year ago.

Yup. The Superdome's up and running -- New Orleans is back, baby!

Look, I'm not saying this isn't a legitimate story. But it's a story with a context and the context isn't being reported. The Superdome got a big boost from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), reports New Orleans' Times-Picayune:

The team sidestepped another financial obstacle in late January when it expedited a $91 million repair payment from FEMA. The process normally takes 60 to 90 days, but Dome officials needed the money immediately to start construction. The State Facility of Planning and Control, which oversees all construction projects, will not allow work to begin until cash is in place. To cut the red tape in Washington, Dome officials enlisted Tagliabue and U.S. Sen. David Vitter. On Feb. 28 -- Fat Tuesday -- Thornton received a call that the money was on its way. The work could begin.

Other people weren't so lucky. Residents of the Lower 9th Ward -- Katrina's 'Ground Zero' in New Orleans -- are still waiting for reconstruction. Over one year after it was destroyed, the Houston Chronicle reports that reconstruction is still in the planning stages.

What's the holdup? One problem is that FEMA underestimated the cost of rebuilding and money's becoming tight -- but not too tight to find $91 million for the Superdome. "Many initial estimates by the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the cost of repairing thousands of water-logged buildings, cracked pipes and crumbling streets in hurricane-staggered Louisiana were way too low — and some reconstruction projects are being held up because of it," Associated Press reports today. "Some local governments say they cannot legally or financially hire contractors and get on with the work, because they fear they will be saddled with repair costs that won't be reimbursed by Washington."

Meanwhile, people finding themselves still homeless are living in FEMA trailers.

(AP) A February deadline to get residents out of thousands of travel trailers in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina will not be kept, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.

That month marks the 18-month deadline set for FEMA relief following President Bush's disaster declaration. But since the city's recovery has been slow, officials now say there will not be enough housing.

"We're going to go beyond 18 months," said Darryl Madden, spokesman for FEMA's Gulf Coast recovery office.

According to AP, "The private sector must step up the pace of getting new housing units to market, Madden said." See the catch-22? The private sector has to step up, but FEMA won't guarantee that they'll be paid. Why on earth would the private sector take the risk?

And those FEMA trailers aren't exactly palatial. They aren't the sort of trailers you find in trailer parks, they're the kind of trailers you find at campgrounds. They aren't meant to be lived in for any sort of extended period of time. In fact, doing so means living in a toxic environment.

A group testing FEMA trailers in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have discovered a dangerous problem that could have widespread implications to the health of anyone living in one.

A spokeswoman for the environmental group Sierra Club told that they released final results from tests conducted from April to August of this year that revealed formaldehyde, found inside the trailers, were at illness-inducing levels.


"As soon as we come out of the trailer, we start coughing," [resident Kathleen] Covington told "You can feel it trying to get out of your system, and I steadily feel a drip in the back of my throat from it," she said, adding the bad air has caused her to lose her appetite and in a month and a half she’s lost 27 pounds.

So, yes, the Superdome's back, but New Orleans is far from it. That's the whole story.


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E.J. said...

So glad to see folks far away from here who recognize how FEMA is in the way of recovery! Thanks!

Mark said...

Thanks for this shoutout on the real story, from a New Orleanian formerly in self-imposed exile in the far northern fringe of the heartland (Fargo, N.D.).

We have so damned far to go, but getting the Dome done was important symbolically and psychologically for everyone here. It was, in spite of it all, money well spent.

double up said...

Bush can always find money for big business,war,tax cuts for the rich,but when it comes to helpng the poor,the homeless,the disabled,we have too big of a federal budget defecit.Enjoy the game tonight!Go SAINTS!!!!!!!!!

Republican said...

Go fuck yourself

Wisco said...

Go fuck yourself

Can I quote you on that Mr. Vice President?

BenMerc said...

I see the Republicans that drop in at this site are stellar debaters also. It appears they are consistent in their ignorance and response, as seen in other venues.

I wonder what so many of them have against truth? Why should it bother them that ideas and other views get hashed out on sites like this.

Other visitors at this site realize the context of disparity mentioned in the article, they also know it was a symbolically significant event on a much needed level for their Super Dome to open. Yet, they have their say about that, and remain aware of thousands of disenfranchised working poor that are not getting the help they need for the situation they find themselves.

What TF is so hard to understand about that? The "fuck you" types are spoiled children all.