Concerned that survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could lose out on federal funds for rebuilding their homes, POGO sent letters to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Inspector General (IG) and Members of Congress.
The volunteer-run Citizens’ Road Home Action Team (CHAT) brought to our attention the issues with HUD's The Road Home program, which is designed to compensate homeowners affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. CHAT has compiled hundreds of egregious stories of applicants being given the runaround from ICF International — the former contractor managing the program — and from Hammerman & Gainer Inc. — the new contractor — such as being denied copies of their files and facing extraordinary delays. For example, Road Home applicant John Lange summarized his appeals process in a May 20, 2009 email to Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and other Members of Congress:
POGO asked the IG, as part of its audit of the program, to contact some of the Road Home applicants who can provide detailed accounts and documents about the extensive problems they encountered when trying to access the funds HUD allocated to help them rebuild their homes and lives in the wake of the two hurricanes. POGO asked several Members of Congress who have jurisdiction over HUD to hold off from approving the Louisiana Recovery Authority’s request to divert the half- to one-billion dollars of uncommitted funds away from The Road Home program.
We recommend that no decisions about future uses of Road Home funding, such as diversion to potentially worthwhile projects like hospital renovation and mobile health clinics, should be made until the results of the IG’s audit are publicly released. We also recommend one way to ensure that all Road Home applicants are awarded fair compensation for their loss: applicants’ appeals should be re-opened so they can be heard by Administrative Law Judges, who at one point were the third-tier review panel for The Road Home Program.
We’ll keep you posted on what we hear back from the IG and Congress.
-- Ingrid Drake