$700 million in Katrina aid has gone missing. However, there is no need to involve Sherlock Holmes in this mystery, there is a chance authorities have stumbled upon a few clues:
A new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development paints a grim picture of a program that was supposed to help Louisiana’s Katrina victims protect their homes from future storms – to the tune of $700 million in misplaced taxpayer money.
The relief program, which disbursed grants of up to $30,000 to more than 24,000 homeowners, was supposed to be used to elevate homes and protect property in areas vulnerable to storm surges. Instead, as the report by Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) David Montoya now shows, of the $1 billion earmarked for home improvements, homeowners seem to have spent a striking majority – at least $700 million – on anything but.
According to Montoya, the program’s intent seems to have been completely ignored by most Louisiana residents who received HUD grants:
“We have $700 million that we can’t account for and that certainly did not go to elevating homes and preventing future damage from storms,” Montoya said in an interview to ABC.
“This is money we can’t afford to lose. This is money that we don’t get back and this is money that we can’t put toward other disaster victims,” he added.
“The Elevation Incentive agreement specifically stated that if the homeowner did not elevate his or her home within 3 years of the signed agreement, the owner must repay the full grant amount to the State. The grant amounts awarded to the eligible homeowners were disbursed in one lump sum directly to the homeowner upon signing the binding agreement.”
As of late April 2012, only 18 of the homeowners who were “noncompliant” with the agreement had returned their grant money, at least in part, for a total of $200,900. Meanwhile $119.2 million had actually been used for home elevations – a less than one fifth of the total sum that has “gone missing.”
Instead of telling residents that the government will pay up to $30,000 for them to get their houses elevated, and all the residents would have to do was send the government an actual invoice from a reputable renovation company – one that was on the governments “approved list”, the government instead gave a blank cheque to these people in the hope they would do the right thing and spend the money responsibly.
And the peoples didn’t do the right thing.
Colour The Mayor surprised.
Now there’s not a chance any of that money will be paid back and the taxpayer is on the line for a cool $700. $700 million buys a lot of malt liquor and weed. The recipients of this taxpayer money will tell you that first-hand.