On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast, I joined a group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to tour the region. Our objective was to survey the rebuilding efforts and hear from local residents about the problems they’ve been experiencing in the past months.
This was my second trip to the region in the past year. After participating in town hall meetings in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, holding policy forums with local experts and engaging in countless conversations with residents, it became quite clear that in the six months since I last visited the Gulf region, the federal response was still inadequate and people are not much better off.
During the trip, our delegation found the following: Virtually none of the tens of thousands of homes which were flooded out have been rebuilt. Thousands of families are still waiting for FEMA trailers, while thousands of said trailers continue to sit in a field in Arkansas. An estimated 11 percent of the $19 billion that has been spent by FEMA –or $2 billion – has been the victim of waste, fraud and abuse. 80 percent of Gulf Coast businesses with approved SBA disaster loans are still waiting to get their loans. Only three of the 10 acute-care hospitals in New Orleans have re-opened; the only public hospital, Charity, has still not re-opened. Only 56 of 128 public schools in New Orleans are enrolling students this fall.
Despite what you may have heard in some news reports and elsewhere, the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are resilient, caring and determined. They are committed to rebuilding their communities and relocating the dispossessed. The federal government must in turn, live up to their end of the bargain. Accountability is a major issue in the Gulf. Congress must forcefully exercise its role in this area. Failure to do so will result in people continuing to experience pain because of the incompetence of this administration. For the wealthiest nation in the world, this is truly unacceptable. We can and must do better.
If you are interested in learning more about my most recent trip to New Orleans or learning about volunteer activities through the Red Cross, you should be aware of my upcoming 15th Annual Women’s Conference, being held at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington on Saturday, September 16th. Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET and owner of the Washington Mystics professional women’s basketball team will be the keynote speaker. A full range of breakout sessions on healthy living, personal finance and self-defense will also be offered. For more information, please call my office or visit my website at www.moran.house.gov to register.