On Aug. 29, the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Bushes will visit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology, the first public school to reopen in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, where they will meet with Louisiana education officials. They will remain at the school for a moment of silence to mourn the lives lost during Hurricane Katrina.
The photo opp continues in Mississippi, where the Bushes will be briefed by state and local elected officials and community leaders on rebuilding efforts. The president will then make a statement in front of the U.S. 90 Bridge between Bay Saint Louis and Pass Christian, Miss. The bridge was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but two lanes of the bridge were opened to traffic in May 2007, and the project is scheduled for completion in late January 2008.
Katrina Recovery: $114 Billion and Counting
The Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 28 announced that $24 billion has been spent to rebuild the Gulf Coast states and provide survivors with a place to live, repair damaged infrastructure and build houses and schools in 2007. Of the $114 billion allocated for Gulf Coast recovery, 84 percent has either been disbursed or is awaiting claims.
FEMA awarded $8.3 billion in public assistance funding for education, criminal justice, public works, health and hospitals and historic and cultural resources. Education and public works received $1.3 billion apiece.
As of July 2007, over 95,000 households have received some type of federal aid.
Politicians: More Needs to be Done
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, notes that “Two years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still a long way to go to get the Gulf Coast region back on its feet. Too many families and businesses are still struggling with too much red tape and an incompetent federal response that put our kids in toxic trailers and mismanaged billions of taxpayer dollars. Two years ago, Katrina pulled back a curtain and showed the world the true extent of poverty and inequality that still exists in our country. Remembering this tragedy with photo ops isn’t enough. We must finally force accountability and action from the federal government that will get our families and small businesses back on track.”
Kerry pointed out that when Katrina hit in 2005, there was no effective safety net to help the individuals and small businesses that were devastated by the storm. “And 2 years later, we still lack a plan that ensures that a Katrina-like response never happens again,” said Kerry. “I’ve worked with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and others on a bipartisan basis for 2 years to provide the government with critical tools to respond more quickly and effectively in the case of future disasters. We passed a disaster loan reform bill in the Senate, and we need to get this legislation on the president’s desk and signed into law.” (For more information on the legislatioin, visit http://sbc.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=280651.)
Earlier in August, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., along with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, led a bipartisan Congressional delegation of approximately 15 House members, including the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. The trip included a visit to Mississippi, and allowed members to return to a region many visited a year ago and assess the impact of the legislation Congress recently has passed.
“In the past year, south Louisiana has made a lot of progress towards a full recovery from Katrina and Rita, but we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Melancon. “Whip Clyburn and I believe that by visiting the Gulf Coast and meeting the people who are working daily to help Louisiana rebuild, the members of Congress will better understand where the needs still exist, 2 years after the storms. I thank my colleagues in the House, especially the Democratic leadership, for renewing their commitment to stand with the people of south Louisiana and be a full partner in our recovery.”