[StBernard] Money to make homes more storm proof cut from Road Home

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun May 20 11:34:01 EDT 2007

In confirming last week that the Road Home is $2.9 billion short of serving
eligible homeowners, state leaders quietly killed a $573 million part of the
aid program to make the already-staggering shortfall seem smaller than it

Staring down a $3.5 billion shortfall iniatially, state officials moved
money earmarked help homeowners pay for individual storm protection measures
into a budget column for home repair and buyout grants. . The decision by
the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which sets Road Home policies, and the
Office of Community Development, which oversees the program, would cut $573
million intended to help homeowners rebuild stronger and smarter.

However, while cutting the so-called Individual Mitigation Measures grants
out of their budget projections, the state has never announced any plans to
end the program. Meanwhile, people have been applying for the grants for
months, and counting on the aid to gird rebuilt homes from future storms,
using measures such as storm shutters.

Kathy duTreil, a grant writer for the city of Kenner, said she's helped more
than 300 people apply for IMM grants, thinking they would eventually be

"I feel very betrayed that they have all the money for travel and high
salaries, and the basic hardworking people are getting screwed," she said.

The IMM grants have always been considered part of a Road Home homeowner
grant, along with compensation for repairs, money to elevate homes and
forgivable loans available to lower-income homeowners. But the LRA has never
been able to launch the IMM grants.

Still, they remain a part of the Road Home program policies posted on the
Web site, www.road2la.org. And Road Home brochures still encourage
homeowners to apply for up to $7,500 in mitigation money so they can put up
storm shutters, raise air conditioning units or tie down their roofs.

When asked about the decision to eliminate the pot of mitigation money from
budget projections, LRA spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth suggested the state hopes
to continue financing the grants.

"That program was always dependent on available funds, since the outset of
the program," she said. "And it's still dependent on available funds."

However, the state also hopes to keep financing other parts of the Road Home
without currently having enough funds to do so. Hence, the budget shortfall.

When LRA officials worked with consultants from McKinsey & Co. to come up
with a Road Home budget, it used available Federal Emergency Management
Agency data to assume it would serve 114,532 homeowners. Based on current
applicant data, it looks like the program will end up serving 132,215
homeowners, a 15 percent increase over the estimate.

The Road Home planners also made certain guesses about the average size of
awards: $34,556 for the average compensation grant, $8,341 a homeowner for
elevation grants, $5,005 for the typical IMM grant and $12,207 per applicant
for low-income, no-interest loans. That presumed an average total award of

But the current projections assume that 17,683 additional grant recipients
will get an average of $74,173, even while zeroing out IMM grants and only
slightly increasing the average low-income loan. That's because the average
compensation grant -- based on repair or buyout costs minus any insurance or
other government proceeds -- has gone up to $48,225, while the typical
elevation grant has climbed to $13,045 per applicant.

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