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Sep 30, 2009

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w.johnson

The only thig i can say is that the Federal Government,should investigate the State and the ICF ,And bring charges of fraud aganist the agencies This is nothing,but deception ,greed,and theft.It seam as the people of Louisiana are disfunctional.Some Lawer should look in to this fraudulent pactice,also the Government.

Water Damage Restoration

Not pnly am I having problems with the Road Home Grant Programs, but also the State of Louisiana's Citizens Insurance that hasn't settled my Hurricane Damages Claim. I am presently in Civil Court having to litigate my damages. I also haven't received reimbursement from F.E.M.A. for Hurricane Ike and Gustvo evaluation expenses. I feel that although the hurricanes has gone, I am still waiting like so many others to be rescued. My mother died waiting to be rescued. I now question my life's future regardly of my having to live in F.E.M.A. Travel Trailer that exposed me an asthma patient to 21ppb of formaldehyde, tested by F.E.M.A., and now having to live in my damaged home while I wait for Insurance, Road Home, etc. to help repair my home of 30 years in New Orleans-East. I don't know if MRGO and/or Dwdyer Road Drainage Pumps caused the flooding, I do know what is causing my failure to repair my home. When will we be able to move on with our lifes.

Maria

I frankly hope that not repeat disaster from previous hurricanes.

http://www.viewheadlines.com/News/Article.aspx?i=17939&t=Tropical-storm-plus-oil-slick-equals-more-fear-and-uncertainty

laura

Melanie, I just read your message about the double standard the state is trying to get away with by denying flood victims fair compensation by stating that a house that was inundated with 12 feet of water and remained flooded for the better part of a month is less than 50% damaged, but a 13 story concrete building that suffered two floors of flood waters that remained for roughly one week is over 50% damaged simply because it suits their purposes.

Thank you for continuing to fight for fairness.

Melanie Ehrlich

One more thing--

---For records requests for change-policy documents filled in 2007, see http://www.chatushome.com:2500/chatus/published/HomePage#changep

---See also Chapter 1-Records Requests Of LRA & More HMGP House Elevation Grant Problems


Melanie Ehrlich
Founder, Citizens’ Road Home Action Team (CHAT) http://chatushome.com
Member, LRA Housing Task Force

Melanie Ehrlich

More About the Lack of Consistency and Accountability of the $10 billion, federally financed Louisiana Road Home Program

1. Many Low-Income Hurricane Victims Applying For Road Home Grants Still Have Been Shut Out

At the December, 2009 week’s meeting of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) Housing Task Force, of which I am a member, I noted that the recent raise in the ceiling for special compensation grants (Additional Compensation Grants, ACG) to low-income applicants is not taking care of many of the applicants most wronged by previous grant calculation procedures. The problem originated from a formula for grant calculation that is partly based upon land value so that low-income applicants often do not get enough to repair their homes.

A former member of the Appeals Dept. for ICF wrote to me as follows after my posting in our email newsletter that goes to more than 850 members.

(We were repeatedly instructed in appeals that the income requirement had to be recalculated within 6 months of closing date – this is EXACTLY why people who were originally determined eligible for ACG were later denied.)


2. There was some apparently promising news about Hazard Mitigation house-elevation grants

-Although it is rather late to be giving money over four years after the hurricanes-flood to disaster victims to elevate their homes.

-However, applicants tell us over and over that they this grant program is predominantly broken promises. Part of this was verified in a recent newspaper article.

Bottom line, not only is there limbo for most Road Home applicants to the Hazard Mitigation (HMGP) program for Elevation and Elevation-Reconstruction Grants (like there has been for Road Home Compensation Grants) but also, there is little evidence that once the limbo is over more than a trickle of applicants will receive any money based on an undefined “cost reasonableness.”

See: HMGP News from LRA, News from Applicants

See also: Chapter 1-Records Requests Of LRA & More HMGP House Elevation Grant Problems


3. The Incredible Saga of Secrecy, Public Documents, and the LRA

-I have begun postings about my attempt to obtain public documents about Road Home Program (RH) rules, expenditures, and surveys

-This attempt to get some transparency in the RH involved the Louisiana Public Records Request law

-It took one-and-a-half years from July 1, 2008 to Dec. 20, 2009

-It required filing a legal complaint to get most of the documents

Here is some brief background and the court filing on April 2, 2009

-Melanie Ehrlich versus Paul Rainwater, Executive Director, Louisiana Recovery Authority

-My public records request of July 1, 2008 was only partially filled

-My public records request of Oct. 20, 2008 was not filled at all, as of Mar. 2009, when my lawyer started to write to LRA about a legal hearing

-My public records request of Dec. 15, 2008 was not filled at all as of Mar. 2009


Chapter 1: First letter from my lawyer mentioning the need to file a legal action

-This letter was sent on Mar. 12, 2009 to Dan Reese, LRA attorney

-It describes LRA not releasing documents that detail new policy changes affecting applicants

-I was told by my attorney that any policy changes to state procedure were supposed to be made publicly automatically

-Instead, LRA and the similar state agency Office of Community Development (OCD)

---kept many of the rule changes for Road Home secret

---hid important details about most rule changes from the public

---until CHAT obtained the Change-Policy or CCB documents by public records requests


Melanie Ehrlich
Founder, Citizens’ Road Home Action Team (CHAT)
Member, LRA Housing Task Force

Dennis Gleiber

The press is part of the problem...
http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/12/post_225.html
It appears hyperbole is the order of the day, or perhaps the honorable Mr. Hammer is engaging in ironic sarcasm, a.k.a. modern journalism. Clearly he is not engaging in accounting, science, or social science. His gross generalizations are mere assertions bracketed by anecdotes. Congress and the nation offered post-Katrina & Rita aid of $150K per home to most of southern Louisiana. Where is the denominator? 126K families received some "compensation" (are your allowed to use that term now?) after how many years? How many received the $150K sent? How many received enough to make them whole? Why was "compensation" needs tested? How many young families and needed professionals left thanks to the state's signature program?

Mr. Hammer is clearly an apologist for the state. He says, "Not all recipients have held up their end of the bargain and rebuilt, but after many early stumbles, the Road Home program can say it has gotten the money out and into nearly every qualified applicant's hands, if belatedly." What part of this assertion is true? Let's see some numbers, not vague generalizations? How many recipients received sufficient or full "compensation" and failed to rebuild and how many residents did not and therefore could not rebuild? The beauty of Louisiana's program is that it has no consistent (generally not written, but always changing) rules for administration or appeal, serves as its own opaque review and appeal process and is supported by a court system that demurs to the other branches. "S[tephens] also said the state could not allow disgruntled homeowners access to independent judicial reviews even if it wanted to." Of course not, they are the same perpetrators of fraud the state has been protecting us from all along. Say it often enough, loud enough, and first in enough investigative reports and it must be true. Where are the investigations of ICF, LRA, DCD? Clearly there will be no due process or appeal to an independent judiciary. And do not worry about post mortems by historians or social scientists, they need concrete objective evidence, of which there is none.

The Meehan experience is illustrative. Where is the investigative reporting on the small rental program and all the mom and pop landlords helped by that program? Where is the transparency, accountability, and documentation in the handling of Meehan's or anyone's application? It was too much effort for RH, LRA, and ICF to document decisions or sign letters. My experience (anecdote to be sure) has to do with FEMA flood maps. I have documentation that ICF created its own maps, and LRA officials made decisions based on maps they claimed were official but were not (FEMA officials said so) and still are not and never will be.

The glory of RH is that some people were helped and that is a good thing. But let's not forget that President Bush said that he and the nation would do all that is needed for as long as it takes to make us (the victims of the failed federal levees) whole. It just is not happening. Katrina recovery in Louisiana is a time for political and economic elites to benefit from the perverted provision of collective goods. Don't believe me? "According to a Louisiana Recovery Authority report earlier this month, up to $100 million is set aside for about 3,500 applicants still in the pipeline. That's enough to pay each of them less than half the average grant amount of $64,000." If the federal government allocated $150K for each damaged home, why is the average grant so much lower and the set aside (just in case they must be served) so much lower? And, what happened to all the rest of the money (remember there were no awards for the small rental properties)? The state needs to divert it to its own pet projects not to "compensating" its citizens for their victimization.

How will we demonstrate that all "deserving" home owners have been served? Survey might work, but LRA already did a survey and no one knows where the data are from that abortion. I know let's have the state say it and then report what they say in the press. Let's say it loud, often, and at the beginning of every article and newscast. I will believe it, you will believe it, because they are all honorable men. What's that sharp pain in my back?

d hilton

i would like to know why they had appeals for the road home program because i appealed and won and when other people took over they said i would not receive the money

Rev. Kendall J. Calvin Sr. M.th

I sent this letter directly to Paul Rainwater via Email in July of this year, so far our prayers and situation remain unchanged. God help us all.

J. Michael Malec, Former Advisor

Many of my stories are the same as others here, just worse. e.g. On bad evaluations, I worked hard to correct an unconsciencible error, which proved the evaluator had never even seen the house. They classed the home as a mobile home when it was a single shotgun, and to cover, they said it was now demolished. I talked with the owners who were set to get nothing, and stopped on my way home to photograph the home on my own time, with my own equipment. I uploaded the pix, and faced with incontrovertable proof the the house was:
a. a single shotgun
b. recently gutted for rehab by Catholic Charities
c. NOT demolished
the home evaluation unit had to back off.

This is just one example. The the separate (from reality) Road Home Universe, there are thousands of such stories.

Laura

I thank the former ICF employees who worked on the Road Home Program for speaking out. I do hope that your words reach the ears of those in a position to and with the motivation to do something and I hope that your co-workers feel compelled to tell what they know.

Sincerest thanks,
Laura

Jaimie

Because we had 800 square feet on the second floor of our 3000 square foot house we were denied a Type 1 evaluation. The fact that several of our neighbors who had FULL second stories were classified as Type 1 seemed not to matter.

It was all about who did the evaluation. Even when the evaluator was totally in error his/her opinion was the last word. We happened to get an arrogant fool who didn't even know how to measure a house--his original measurements were nearly 1000 sqare feet off.

We also never received the Additional Compensation Grant we were promised.

Fair and equitable treatment was a foreign concept to the people who proposed, oversaw and ran the Road Home Program. Either you got lucky--or you didn't.

McBeth9

Not pnly am I having problems with the Road Home Grant Programs, but also the State of Louisiana's Citizens Insurance that hasn't settled my Hurricane Damages Claim. I am presently in Civil Court having to litigate my damages. I also haven't received reimbursement from F.E.M.A. for Hurricane Ike and Gustvo evaluation expenses. I feel that although the hurricanes has gone, I am still waiting like so many others to be rescued. My mother died waiting to be rescued. I now question my life's future regardly of my having to live in F.E.M.A. Travel Trailer that exposed me an asthma patient to 21ppb of formaldehyde, tested by F.E.M.A., and now having to live in my damaged home while I wait for Insurance, Road Home, etc. to help repair my home of 30 years in New Orleans-East. I don't know if MRGO and/or Dwdyer Road Drainage Pumps caused the flooding, I do know what is causing my failure to repair my home. When will we be able to move on with our lifes.

jo

In my opinion, his is Fraud and misuse of federl money and that makes it a federal issue and needs a federal investigation and it appears to some degree it has been brought to some attenion. However, all concerned should not forget to report the issues to the FBI TASK FORCE HOTINE TO REPORT THIS ALLEGED FRAUD 1- 866- 720 -5721 and send comments to WHITEHOUSE.gov as well. The White House and the U. S. Dept. of Justice authorities are FULLY AWARE of these issues but have done nothing so far.......their attitude and I have it in writing.....YOU CAN'T TELL US WHAT TO DO!!!!! The more who write the better.

ex road home advisor

As Road Home Advisor I assisted thousands of applicants and can relate to their fruitless efforts to get their funds. They were told to call the Baton Rouge office that hardly if ever returned phone calls. Whenever I gave out phone nos to persons that worked in Baton Rouge it raised all kinds of hell and I was told never to give out any more phone nos. When I worked at the title company files were always getting lost..whenever they didnt know what to do with a file it was just dumped into bins similar to the ones that the post office uses....sort of a black hole so to speak..Evaluators refused to change their evaluation of a damaged home even when presented with flood information on areas from Stennis Space Center employees who wanted to help the many applicants...it was impossible to get an evaluator to even come into the center to explain how or why they did wrong evaluations. They said that they could tell the amount of damage by just counting the doors and windows within a home...some evaluators
didnt even get out of their automobile in order to do a damage assessment. Even when presented with indisputable evidence of the amount of damage the Baton Rouge refused to change their evaluation values..they just made the applicant turn in different damage information....Some of the applicants still call me for assistance long after my center closed down...Why give the money to someone other than the people who still havent gotten theirs.

Melanie Ehrlich

This posting is in response to the comments of Christina Stevens, Press Secretary of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) on the second page of this blog (editor's note: you may view that comment here). The posting is from Melanie Ehrlich, the founder of Citizens’ Road Home Action Team (CHAT) and member of the LRA Housing Task Force (HTF) about the Road Home Program (RH) for Compensation Grants to Louisiana homeowners who were Hurricane Katrina or Rita victims.

1. While thousands have been helped much by RH, other thousands of applicants have been treated unfairly and with inconsistently applied rules through no fault of their own.

Many of the RH applicants lost their homes and possessions because of knowingly faulty oversight of canal walls by the US Army Corp of Engineers leading to wall collapses.

2. The responses at this blog from applicants are representative cases of a very large percentage of Road Home applicants who have been shortchanged on their grants by RH’s own rules.

Some of the validation of the POGO bloggers comes from more than 1500 responses to our detailed online surveys at our grass-root group’s website (http://chatushome.com ). We made over 300 unedited responses to our most recent survey publicly available.

These responses have only be changed to make them anonymous for public posting but we have contact information for each applicant.

In addition, hundreds of emails from applicants and testimony from hundreds more applicants at our CHAT meetings and at HTF meetings indicate the common nature of the complaints raised in the POGO blog responses.

Every issue brought up by applicants in this blog has been independently confirmed by other applicants, e.g., applicants left in limbo, uncorrected mistakes by RH in grant processing, unjustifiable grant-constricting rule changes, the contractor ICF not following applicant-friendly improvements in rules, and personal bias against some applicants who complained to the media.

Our posting of unedited comments from RH applicants is in contrast to an unpublicized survey by LRA and Louisiana State University (LSU) that involved more than 8000 applicants chosen on the basis of being contacted by RH staff within the previous 2 weeks (and hence excluding the many applicants who had been left in limbo and were not contacted for many months by RH). The LRA-LSU survey winnowed the 8000 applicants down to about 650 who were included in the final tally, many of whom were initially eliminated from the final counting because they stated that they did not get the information they needed from the contractor, ICF Emergency Management Services, LLC (ICF) about the Program. The LRA-LSU survey even with its bias against dissatisfied applicants produced approval ratings for this grant program of only 36% “very satisfied” while 12% of interviewed and counted applicants were “very dissatisfied.” The LRA-LSU documents were not made public by LRA but I obtained them more than a half year after I made public record requests for them and enlisted the aid of attorneys.

3. Contrary to the statement at this blog by the Press Secretary of the LRA, there was not simply discussion of diverting funds from RH applicants to other purposes.

Rather, there was a unanimous vote of the LRA Board of Directors at their Nov. 18, 2008 meeting to petition Congress to spend "unexpended portion" of RH funds for "other disaster recovery programs after all Program obligations are met."

Ingrid Drake, POGO Investigator’s comments at the top of this blog include two references to newspaper articles about LRA considering diverting RH funds. One from Sept. 4, 2009 states the following.

"Rainwater said in a recent interview that LRA is in the process of a full accounting of the estimated $3 billion that has yet to be spent from three separate congressional appropriations, about half of that earmarked specifically for the Road Home residential rebuilding program. Any changes affecting money from the first two appropriations must be approved by LRA, a legislative oversight panel and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It would take congressional action to redirect any money from the Road Home-specific appropriations."

Diversion of funds has been planned and pursued, pending Congressional approval.

At the last LRA HTF meeting in Feb. 2009, the question of this diversion of funds came up. The Chairman of the HTF, Walter Leger, stated publicly at this meeting that there never was any intention to use RH funds for anything other than RH applicants, contrary to official minutes of an LRA Board meeting. Mr. Leger asked HTF members for suggestions on how to use remaining funds to help applicants and said that we (myself included as a member) would discuss this. He received suggestions but no further HTF meetings have been held nor have HTF members been involved in subsequent discussion of this important matter by email or phone.

4. A major question here is what is the responsibility of the State of Louisiana to meet Program obligations?

Over and over applicants have told us about being verbally coerced to go to a closing on their grant with the amount of grant money inexplicably lowered from what was on their award letter. They were supposed to be able to appeal after closing but appeals were made difficult to initiate (signing a form AND sending a letter within a time limit) and first-level appeals were conducted by the contractor, ICF, who made unusually high rates of mistakes in the first place and was extremely reluctant to correct them. Second and final level appeals were by the state using undisclosed rules, with undisclosed members of a State Review Panel , and a very low rate of approving appeals.

The "surplus" in RH funds is the result of shortchanging applicants by not correcting large numbers of grant-constricting mistakes and by ever changing rules that often lowered lower grants. One example is the hurtful exclusion of mold and mildew damage from damage calculations, which was made a rule in the summer of 2008, two years after the program began.

This surplus is also a consequence RH not following the Spring, 2007 Statement of Principles approved unanimously by the LRA Board of Directors in response to applicants who kept testifying at these Baton Rouge meetings about unfair treatment resulting in unrepaired or foreclosed homes.

5. It is helpful that LRA is suggesting that raising the cap for Additional Compensation RH grants for low-income applicants. However, the main problem that so many of these applicants had is that they were certified as income-eligible by RH staff and subsequently had their eligibility recalculated and told they were no longer eligible for unfair or incorrect reasons. LRA has not suggested fixing this more fundamental problem.

6. Ms. Christina Stephens, Press Secretary, wrote for the LRA in her POGO blog response that "we cannot undo past customer service failures."

This is not correct.

CHAT has been strongly advocating for opening up appeals to applicants who did not have a copy of their file available to them during their appeal so that they could know exactly what mistakes were made; had a summary rejection of their appeal with no specific reasons given; had their documentary evidence for mistakes overlooked; did not have help with their appeal involving convoluted and changing RH rules never clarified to and often never even made available to them, especially the 40% of applicants without internet access; were unable to appeal because their pre-appeal (dispute resolution) was left in limbo by ICF International; were given only a few days to produce detailed documents during their appeal; were led to believe that they had initiated an appeal by filling out an appeal form but did not also send a letter so that they lost their right to appeal; lost their appeal because the same ICF staff person who gave them an erroneously low damage estimate decided the validity of that estimate during the appeal without even going back to the house in question.

LRA has not made even current appeals fair, independent, or consistent.

7. The Executive Director of LRA, Mr. Paul Rainwater, told me during a face-to-face meeting in early 2008 that he wished he could re-open appeals but there just were not enough funds.

Now there are enough funds but LRA will not re-open appeals.

LRA will not make appeals fair with guidelines for how they are determined (vote?, majority vote? unanimous vote? standards for weighing applicant evidence, etc.) and conducted by independent individuals, not the Contractor staff or undisclosed members of the LRA staff (undisclosed despite my more than 1-year-old public records request for the names of members of the State Review Panel and my unfilled request for written standards for deciding State Review Panel appeals).

8. It is shameful that so many RH applicants have written or told us that the irrationality and unconcern of the black box of the multi-year RH experience (often an ordeal) with unanswered phone calls and emails and uncorrected, sometimes nonsensical mistakes in grant calculations have hurt them yet more than losing all their possessions and their homes.

This is not the way our US government funds should be spent.

The answer is not "no-federal-assistance," but rather, consistent and fair federal assistance to disaster victims with appropriate federal oversight of spending of federal funds so that they serve the purpose intended by Congress.

9. The HUD Office of the Inspector General should fairly evaluate our official complaint

which was accepted for investigation in February.

The only objective way to do this is to include information directly from a small, but representative, sample of the more than 22,000 applicants who filed pre-appeals (dispute resolution) and the more than 8000 applicants who had a chance to appeal (but not an independent appeal with written standards) and lost their appeal (see here and here).

Information for the review should not predominantly come from state and contractor personnel. Applicants files also do not tell enough because we know that important documents that should be there are often intentionally excluded.

10. LRA could and should re-open appeals to those who tried to appeal and lost giving priority first to low-income applicants.

LRA should also re-examine the reversal of eligibility decisions for previously approved applicants for additional compensation grants (for low-income applicants). These reversals were often based upon recalculating applicants' income from later dates and sometimes from incorrect extrapolations of yearly income, contrary to RH rules.

Lastly, we thank POGO very much and Ingrid Drake and Bryan Rahija for your involvement in these issues.


Melanie Ehrlich, Ph.D. in Biochemistry
http://chatushome.com volunteer at Citizens’ Road Home Action Team (CHAT)
Professor, Human Genetics and Biochemistry and member of Tulane Cancer Center
Tulane Medical School
New Orleans

Homer Branch

I am completing the process of raising my home. I have receipts and the work is being done by a contractor. I did not realize it would cost 51000 to raise the house. Much of this is insurance and profit. I hope that I do not get to the end and find that Rainwater wants the money back. I have been through this once and do not want to go another round against Rainwater and Jindal who wants the money for his political ambitions. I have receipts. pictures, and canceled checks.

Terence

Im curious to know, i have been told by RH reps that the program has abducted policies of FEMA, like for example, you must be the owner and occupant, being that i live on family property, where does that leave me, grandmother passed away in 97, aunt is the owner, and i had permission to live there, honestly the house was a start for me, because i had an chance to better myself being that im already in debt, so living there was a big plus, now the problem, because im not the owner, FEMA declared me inelgible to receive assistance, so there was no hope, and when the RH was created, i was happy that finally somebody was looking out for citizens like me, i was wrong, because somebody thought it would be easy to adopt the policies of FEMA, i am still inelgible, i just feel shafted,, not only that we were told to do a succession, yeah right, then to later be told i would have to be the owner before the hurricane hit, so later we were told we should have been registered under the small rental program within the RH program, but after being told that i ask where to register with the small rental property program, and i obtained a number, to only find out that program was over, i never felt so powerless, but i would like to know, why adopt the policies of FEMA, when you know the services you had to provide to citizens were going to be different, to me those that didn't receive any aid from FEMA should have been put on priority, because we do pay property taxes and if we do that we should be entitled to assistance, and not shuffled around like we are illegal citizens with no rights, its the duty of out government to provide us with assistance at times of disaster, keep in mind we had no insurance to collect either, so the family house now is rotting, so my faith in the RH program, is like urinating in hurricane forced winds!

Compliance Agent

I was Compliance agent for the New Orleans office of The Road Home Program’s Small Rental Property Repair Program. During one visit to the corporate office in Baton Rouge, I along with 63 others, witnessed thousands of applications and requested documents recklessly thrown over the floor. This explained why applicants were being asked to provide duplicative documents four, five and often six times before being assisted. By the end of September of 2007, not one landlord received any assistance from the program, although we opened our doors earlier that same year.

ICF’s 2008 own financial report indicates that their core business revenue was “…up 61.6 percent from the previous year of 2007 due to revenue it had received from obtaining the Road Home contract.” http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS208284+11-Mar-2009+BW20090311

Incredible!!!

As a seasoned compliance agent, at one point monitoring over $5.3 million in federal funding to 12 sub-recipients, I have extensive knowledge in advising and engaging in strategic development, conceptualization, program policy and project development concerning HUD housing programs and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Once I realized that a simple face to face was being discouraged from happening with the Small Rental Property Program, along with countless other procedures, I forwarded a 6 page memorandum to senior management at the corporate office in Baton Rouge on Goodwood. The response that I received after forwarding that document which outlined some serious problems, to say the least, was overwhelming.

We MUST change the bureaucratic inertia and corruption that permeates our State. Unfortunately, there will be another Katrina. It’s up to us to demand that we do not continue to go down the same paths. Mississippi did not follow the same pattern. When you continue to do the same thing, you continue to get the same results.

"Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Vincent Norman Peale

Judy

I have read the applicant comments here, and they are sadly, too familiar. Then I got to the official LRA press statement and felt like banging my head against a wall. Has, at this late date, the state of Louisiana got no further in its understanding of the failures of this program than this?

I know of at least two Road Home applicants, elderly neighbors, whose stories, as far as I know, have never been told anywhere. Both of these people were either summarily rejected or became disheartened by the Road Home process. Both were left with few other options.

When the LRA press release refers to only 8000 applicants remaining, it does not acknowledge those who, like the two neighbors, did not satisfactorily make it that far through the gauntlet even when they did not have “difficult title, legal or financial issues.”

I would not characterize what happened to these Louisiana citizens as mere “customer service failures.” To be clear, the Road Home Program was supposed to help residents regain the epicenter of their lives, their most precious possessions: their homes.

When the LRA states that it cannot correct these failures of the past, I ask: Why not? Or at least, why not try, unless the real sticking point is that the state of Louisiana still does not see the importance of getting this right. The LRA assures us that it is committed to using the remaining $3 billion on behalf of Road Home applicants because it would need congressional approval to do otherwise. But I think it’s important to note that the LRA did move in November 2008 to seek that very congressional approval to use the money for other purposes.

How has the quiet abuse of so many people gone unheeded by others? From my vantage point in Louisiana north of the I-10, I have repeatedly observed an ambivalence, if not downright animosity, in the capitol and northern part of the state toward New Orleans and the coastal area. I have come to believe that this sentiment is being harnessed by some to allow this abuse to continue.

The truth about the Road Home Program is too messy to easily draw attention from the simple platitudes of the mythmakers. Unfortunately, the lesson of the Road Home Program to date is that if you make a program unnecessarily complicated enough, in a state with a low enough education level, all manner of corporate and political malfeasance can be practiced at the expense of citizens.

Thanks to POGO for bringing attention to this shameful matter.

SAD NOLA

Dear POGO

The Road Home hiring of Hammerman & Gainer Inc appears to be a rogue act.

Just, why would another company be brought in to manage a left behind pittance of a half billion dollars of the Road Home Grant Money (which original totaled TEN billion) ?

Why, did the Road Home officials allow ICF INTERNATIONAL to decimate NINE & HALF BILLION of the Road Home Grant Money and then hire another firm ?

Was this some ruse to allow ICF International a "GET OUT of DODGE TICKET"? Quickly?

This very act by the Louisiana Road Home Authority, appears to have provided a smoke screen for these players. An amateurish one at that.

Please, bear in mind all the employees of the Road Home program and their mantra have remained the same.

Nothing, has changed for the better with the hiring of Hammerman & Gainer. No matter who is handling the contract now. It is sill the same old Road Home gibberish.

Just, how well and fast is Hammerman & Gainer Inc providing closings of Road Home applicants?

It appears by the blogs that many are still in limbo.

Does The Road Home administrators truly believe, that we the citizens are too naive to see through this diabolical ploy of a scheme.

The scheme of an unscrupulous act of Change the Contractor Game. They would have been more astute to do it mid way. Instead The Road Home changed contractors at the very end of their game.

How pathetic. They now are going around saying,"Well, we fired ICF. We knew they did a poor job and caused many mistakes".

Just, how could Governor Jindal allow his administration to turn a blind eye on the disappearance of NINE and Half Billion dollars meant for Katrina victims?

Signed

SAD NOLA

Marie Carianna

Thank goodness for us we were able to privately sell our ruined property and avoid more wrangling with the joke-of-a-Road-Home program. At the time of our sale, we had already gotten a low ball figure from RH and were in the process of an endless appeal. No phone number to call, no contact person, no email address. Nothing. It was like looking into a black hole.

We have friends who were denied, denied and denied very unfairly over technicalities. One family of friends who are now nearly in bankruptcy and another who still aren't back in their home as they have to do all the work by themselves or with volunteers. Neither "qualified" for RH money. No good reasons. These people were among those who the money was meant for. Many I know gave up and stopped appealing because they were beaten down by too many rejections and RH roadblocks. The LRA should go back to review these closed cases and contact people, reopen cases unfairly closed or at least let people know they may still qualify for money. DO THE RIGHT THING.

The program was wrought with waste, inefficiency, and 'guidelines' that were constantly changing. The people of CHAT worked tirelessly to make things fair and right, but many injustices still remain. The fact that there is leftover money is a bad joke that speaks for itself. So many are still suffering because the money never arrived.

Homer Branch

I have been in the Road Home program from the start. I was an initial test case before the program kicked off.
I was awarded $150000 for damages to my house and then four months later was ruled ineligible by RH.
I went to the television stations and presented information about my case. Al Blankenship, the head of Road Home did not apparently like my comments about his company and their poor work. So I had my award reduced from 150000 to zero and met RH mandates to raise my house and do the things they wanted.
This cost me 37000 and now the Road Home gave me zero.
My theory is that Bobby Jindal is running for president in the next election and is building up his money supply. By taking over 1 billion dollars of home owner funds they can then redirect the funds so that many contractors can be rewarded. Paul Rainwater has consistently gone against the home owners in favor of giving the money to the LRA and OCD, state agencies controlled by Rainwater. Rainwater answers to Jindal and does his bidding. For instance the appeals process is by OCD with OCD employees deciding the fate of the home owners. I was one of a few home owners who got a legislative judge appeal. The judge ruled in my favor, but I could not get OCD or ICF to follow the judges order. OCD eventually threw out the judges order and fired the legislative judges. The explanation that I got was the judges were rulling to often for the home owners.
Now there is no judge, no independent review, just a review by Tye Larkins and an attorney named Reese with no allowance of the home owner to present evidence or even see the people who had his fate in their hands. ICF had under Mr Blankenship had given me a zero CAD (Damages) and then ICF did my appeal as well. I hear form insiders that the fix was in on me by Blankenship. To add insult to injury the CAD department of ICF only surveyed 1/2 of my house and missed most of the damages to the side of the house they did appraise. my house is a double and they just did not evaluate the 701 side of the house, missed the roof, the siding, the floors, and the ceiling and walls.
Not very fair, but Mr. Rainwater was happy to have my 150000
for his pork barrel.
Homer Branch

Patty Abshier

September 28, 2009

In September, 2009 I was informed that our State Appeal was denied.

Living in Chalmette, a town in St. Bernard Parish, we had 9 feet of water which sat in our home for weeks. This water contained mud and grass from the marsh. The entire first floor of our home was destroyed by flood water. The upstairs did not have flood water, but damage had occurred from wind.

No one could live upstairs because there were no basic utilities in the parish. Part of the front porch was blown off, causing water to be blown into the attic, wetting the insulation and destroying the heating and cooling system in the attic. The carpet was destroyed from the moisture, odor, and tracking of muddy feet. The entrance doors had to be broken open so anyone could enter the house.

RH said our damages were under 50%. I think the way that RH determines the damage is unfair. We had 1577 square feet of livable space on the first floor; 642 on the second floor and a porch that crosses the entire front of our house had 220 square feet. No one lives on a porch, yet RH counted the square footage of the porch in our total livable space causing us to have under 50% damage. They used 2,440 as the total livable space when in reality it should have only been 2219. I can't understand how a porch is classified as livable space. In RH's final determination, they said we had 46 % damage but this includes the porch.

Our neighborhood friends and neighbors with similar type homes and the same level of flooding or less in some cases were classified as having over 50% damage. They didn't have a porch! Again, it's hard to understand the differences between homes.

I can't help but feel somewhat angry and disappointed with RH. I can honestly state that no two representatives responded to the same questions or problems in the same way. Often we were unknowingly misinformed.

At one point we were sure that our case was lost. Only with the help of Mr. Rainwater was our case found and started moving again.

WE have exhausted all measures known to us. The denial did not even correct the amount of insurance money we received, but where do we go from here? Where is the accountability? Where is the understanding for a group of people who lost everything? After 20 or more contacts since September, 2006 with RH, one would think RH would finally get it right, but that's not the case here.

In closing, most homes in our area were torn down or sold to others interested in making a fast dollar off the suffering of others. We are the ones who stayed and invested our lives into making our parish come alive again. For this decision, RH has built up our hopes, only to let us down.

Patty Abshier

chimas

The road home program has been a complete disaster. The countless lies and rule changes has made it impossible to get a fair grant. During my three years going through this ordeal I have been told a certain amount was granted then on closing the entire grant has been changed. How is this fair? I even have documents to prove it and it still did not matter during my appeal. This program was and still is a joke designed to line the pockets of the last administration and current one. It is so amazing that the program is so flexible to give ICF more money yet it takes an act of congress to give the money to the people.

Homer Branch

I went through the Road Home Debacle and was initially awarded a $150000 grant. Road home then took the grant away.
After a legislative judge appeal which I won and four more state run appeals I have gotten nothing from Road Home.
Al Blankenship the head of Road Home according to ICF insiders ordered his damage evaluation unit, to give me a zero grant. They did this and missed 1/2 of the house and found few damages to A house that was water logged for 3 months and had the roof blown off. It has been the policy of OCD and LRA 9run by JINDAL) to minimize monies to home owners. They have repeatedly lied about the money to congress and to the home owners. The extra monies now can be used to curry favor with Jindals friends in trying for a presidential run in the next election. Paul Rainwater is very willing to take the money from the home owners and give it to the political buddies of Jindal. Rainwater has been appointed to shield the Governor from the fray of stealing the money, to keep documents from the public (As superintendent of Documents), to have OCD do appeals that are done in conjunction with OCD by OCD with little or no representation by the home owners. Jindal came in to office as the ETHICS GOVERNOR, but has elected to keep the governors office from having to follow the laws that the legislators have to follow. Thus our ethics Governor does not look or act to ethical. Rainwater filters all documents that are released and has even violated state law in not releasing documents to watch dog groups such as CHAT.
I am not liked by Rainwater or Jindal and have not been able to get anybody to get me a fair hearing concerning my house damages. Al Blankenship for some reason did not like me and had his employees take away my grant. The state sent the appeal back to ICF and they said they had not lied.
They lied all along and I have the proof of this in the form of appraisals and cost estimates to repair the house from multiple sources outside of the OCD, lRA, and Governors Office.
I hope that this puts some perspective on a power hungry Governor who will take from Louisiana citizens in order to take in money for a possible Presidential Race. He is buying all of the funders that he can with the home owners money.

Laura

I am one of the lucky ones. My house in Metairie only flooded a few inches (it was four feet off of the ground and the ground is twelve inches above sea level) and therefore I did not qualify for the Road Home Program. At the time I was told that I did not qualify I was upset, but after speaking with many, many, many people who did qualify I am glad that I wasn't damaged enough to have to be dependant on help from this program to rebuild my life. I only had to replace floors, baseboards, the lower part of my walls, anything that was on the floor and a few appliances. Of course, I was in the middle of a move from my house in Metairie into my new home in Lakeview. Lakeview was a different story. I lost everything there, but at least I had a structure to go back to in Metairie. Many hundreds of thousands of people didn't even have that.

I've spoken with my neighbors in Lakeview, Gentilly, and New Orleans East who lost everything they had left behind while evacuating. It's impossible to understand unless you, yourself, go through the hell of rebuilding without reliable information with which to make decisions. Navigating the process of rebuilding (which isn't something that most people are familiar with in their everyday lives) is hard enough. Try doing it while the rules of the government program set up to aid in the rebuilding effort keep changing. Now imagine that it's not just you that you have to care for. Imagine you have children or elderly parents to care for while you navigate this process. Try building a life out of rubble while being told to keep your kids' schedules the same so that they won't have any lasting emotional damage while keeping your emotional trauma in check so that you can successfully hold down a job. That was my main challenge.

While my house in Metairie was partially gutted and I waited for disbursements from insurance companies and, later, my now empty retirement accounts, we lived on the 1x board subflooring with plastic and cardboard serving as floors, baseboards, and doors. (By the way, the most important door in the house is the bathroom door - not the front door.) Our sole piece of furniture was a piano bench, but at least we were together, had clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and we were physically healthy. Yes, it came down to that. When you go home tonight, look around at all that you have and give thanks. Fundamentally understanding that all that you have can be gone in the blink of an eye is a hard concept to fully understand unless you've lived through it personally.

The sad thing is that it didn't have to happen. If the federal government had listened to the locals when they said that digging shipping canals through the wetlands and creating the MRGO was a bad idea and would lead to the flooding of South Louisiana, the floods that followed Katrina would never have happened. If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had done what they were paid to do and built strong levees, the floods that followed Katrina would have been minimal. The rest of the country should really look upon this as a warning. How many other cities and towns need to be flooded, how many lives need to be lost before someone with authority has the backbone to do something about it? Until then, we, the citizens of the United States of America will have to fund our own recovery as federal rebuilding programs serve chiefly to make rich the contractor who gets the job to run the program instead of actually helping legitimate disaster victims get back on their feet.

Barbara Blackwell

Ms. Drake,

The average citizen, when confronted with what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle in their lives to which the resolution is dependant upon municipalities, politicians and/or ranking government officials, often times find themselves at a disadvantage when attempting to personally seek resolve, be it written or oral.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita would certainly qualify as "seemingly insurmountable obstacles" to the victims of this horrific tragedy, which occurred when the levees were breached. Devastated at the first sight of one's home that was inundated, in many instances, with five, six, upwards to twelve feet of water, Louisianians had no choice (in efforts to be made whole) but to rely on their savings, homeowners'flood insurance, where possible, and ultimately the Federal government when "financial gaps" were evident. Ensuing efforts to rebuild have proven and continue to prove, for many who have "fallen through the cracks" of the Road Home (RH) Program, a hard fought losing battle to return home.

It is with the foregoing in mind, I seize this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and support for Project On Government Oversight (POGO), having taken up the mantle in a collaborative effort with Citizens' Road Home Action Team (CHAT) to continue the move toward fairness, transparency, RH accountability and a respect for fellow human beings in their efforts to find a resolve whatever the dilemma encountered resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

With kindest regards, I am

Sincerely,


Barbara Blackwell

CrescentCityRay

I already commented, but wish to make one more point.

Critics fault New Orleanians for feeling entitled to this federal money to help us get back in our homes, but I feel their opinions are based on a bunch of myths.

The one big big myth is that we suffered a 'natural disaster'. Unfortunatly, these critics won't listen to the truth. Our outfall canal floodwalls collapsed with more than four feet of freeboard, at less than half their design load, because the US Army Corps of Engineers' designs specified the floodwall supporting steel sheet-piles be driven to only 17.5 feet below sea level when they needed to be driven to about 60 feet in order to remain standing if water rose all the way to the tops of the walls. We flooded, many hundreds died and 80 percent of New Orleanians lost their homes, jobs, businesses and everything else only because of the negligence of federal government engineers. If the federal government did that to you, wouldn't you feel entitled to some federal government help?

There are many more slanderous myths directed at New Orleans, New Orleanians, Louisiana and generally everyone in South Louisiana, but this big big myth about why we flooded is the one that hurts the most - that ours was a well deserved natural disaster. It's just wrong in so many ways.

Furthermore, it seems the federal government does not care that our state government treats New Orleans and its people as badly as they can manage. Why cannot the feds proactively step in and try to help the people they so wrongly victimized with their bogus flood protection system?

I see the federal government finding the individual RHP abusers and prosecuting them, but what about the RHP managers that abused the human rights of so many citizens? They went out of their way to ruin people's lives. They caused thousands to die of stress and sorrow. Where is the justice?

Marilyn Braxton

I would like to Thank You for the dedication and devotion on all the accomplishments you have made and taking our cases with Road Home. ICF has done illegal deals for years without anyone challenging them or not caring how they treated their applicants. Thanks to Melanie Ehrlich and POGO for having our voices heard.

I have been in the program with Road Home for over two (2) years. I was denied the grant money because RH said I am below 51%. I submitted all necessary paper work to prove I was over 50%. My insurance company gave me a summary of damages that I submitted. It showed the insurance co. amount was over the amount RH said I needed to be 51%. RH changed rules as they saw fit to eliminate applicants. I believe all applicants whose houses had flood damages should be grandfather as Type 1. When RH was first implemented it was for wet areas only sometime later it was changed to dry and wet areas.

I hope a complete investigation will take place to see how many applicants were mistreated and how RH misappropriated grant money.

Thank You,

Yvonne Johnson/Kara Johnson

Dear Ingrid Drake of the POGO Program,

Thank you with all of my heart for helping Melanie Ehrlich (FoCHAT) with the problems we are having with Road Home here in New Orleans.

I was denied the Road Home grant on untrue statements due to ownership/transfer of rights, and dates of when I entered into the program. Also, they refused to bring the amount of damage from 50% to 51% on my two story home, which disqualified me from the Road Home funds. I appealed the decision using my insurance company's evaluation, which was well over 51%, and that too was denied by Road Home. I have been in the progam for over two years and not one of these issues were ever brought up until it was proven by my insurance company's statement of loss that I had over 51% damage, then Road Home denied my application.

During the Road Home process the rules and regulations have changed so many times. Road Home made up the rules as they went along. It was not fair to penalize me for changes they made. I, and others who share the same plight, should have been grandfathered in because my application was accepted and was acceptable for the two years it was in process.

I am blessed to have moved back into my home; however, just as I am, many others are still fighting with Road Home so that they can move back to theirs. It has been four years and still no progress for many of us. I thank you for all that you have done so far to help us here in New Orleans. I am asking you to continue to help us. Help us get the Road Home money that is justly due to us.

Sincerely,


Yvonne Johnson

Rev. Kendall J. Calvin Sr. M.th

My family and others in the City of New Orleans continue to be victimized by the racism and class distinction in the Big Easy. The system is not working and I truly believe that the factions and organizations that have the power and polictical conections are misusing a very large portion of the road home funds. We need help from the federal government.

Three months ago I sent this letter to Mr. Rainwater and we have yet to sit down with anyone from his organiztion. We need help.
From: kjcalvin@msn.com
To: paul.rainwater@la.gov

Subject: Please Help My Mother
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 20:24:24 -0500


Mr. Rainwater,

My name is Rev. Kendall J. Calvin Sr. and I am the son of Mrs. Earline H. Shief.

My mother is an 80 year old lady who loves her some New Orleans. She has always been in the state and would never think of being anywhere else. Since the storm she has be living in Jackson ,La in an elderly housing facility. She is holding on to the faith the God will someday allow her to come home to her beloved New Orleans. All she talks about is her home, church and friends, who by the way are perishing daily. She is and has always been a devout Christian lady, with the gambling appetite of a riverboat professional gambler(smile). She is a true New Orleanian.

Her home was once lived in by Joe (King) Oliver and is an historical place. Tourist would come by bus to see the place where the “King” once lived. King Oliver’s daughter even offered to buy the place about 12 years ago. The house has been a home for our family since 1957 , I was one year old when we moved into that house. It is the only place in New Orleans where all of our family call home. In 2000 Mrs. Roberts,a TV host for WWLTV did a piece on my mother for her 50th anniversary with the radio choir from The Historic Second Baptist Church Radio Ministry. My is the oldest active choir member still. Mother is a good lady and deserves an opportunity to live in that house again.

The house is only a shell now, with boards on the windows. We gutted the house in anticipation of the reconstruction that never came. We’ve waited patiently for the governing fathers to take care of the situation, realizing that we were not the only family in desperate need of help. I even begged mother to come and live with me in Huntsville, Al but she would not leave her precious Louisiana. We have been told time and again that her file is active and that they are working on it. We call weekly for updated. We have been doing this for a long time, with no hope of returning mother to her home. Mother has been waiting patiently for the people at The Road Home organization to call and tell her she can move back home. To date that has not happened, and to be quite honest I don’t see it happening any time soon. The Road Home has been a long one for Mother. Her great faith in God and her desire to see her few remaining friend is what keeps her going.

Sir, I solicit your help in getting my mother back home, back into her place of comfort and peace. She has done no harm to anybody and does not have many days of life left on this side of heaven. As a son I am helpless to give her the finance she needs to rebuild, but as a Christian man I have the power to ask any and all who can help to assist me in getting Mother back home.

She is just an old lady who wants to go home. Will you assist us in getting mother back into her home.

Road Home Application No.: 06HH122498,

Damaged Address: 2712 Dryades St. New Orleans, La. 70113

Mrs. Earline H. Shief

1624 Wilson Drive Jackson, LA 70748

My information is: Rev. Kendall J. Calvin Sr.

1064 Toney school rd

Toney, Al 35773

kjcalvin@msn.com

We need help from someone who care about the citizen of New Orleans.

Dennis W. Gleiber, PhD

HUD, LRA, and their contractors made the Katrina insurance gap - compensation program into a need based program administered from the level least likely to meet the needs of the target population (see my Publius paper). ICF created a small renters program with rules, staff, and policies to help mom and pop renters but never provided compensation to anyone, eventually closing down the program; now LRA wants to divert funds to developer for new construction. In helping my mother-in-law negotiate the program we met a representatives who were abusive and threatening, unable or unwilling to help. Part of the problem was constant turnover of staff, part was intimidation of staff by managers, part was the total absence of formal written policies and procedures, and of course there was no transparency or accountability from day one onward. When it became clear the application or file was being tampered with, we were denied a copy of the case file; then given a tampered file, i.e., one that did not even match the CD version we received when applying. We have three very different sets of documents purported to be her application and file. One egregious error involves appraisal of her home two blocks from Paris Avenue and one block from the London Canal at $1.5 million. One document that later disappeared from the “official” file indicated this was based on comps in old Metairie. In most instances we were unable to talk to the same person more than once or twice. One councilor told her he could not talk about her case any longer, another was fired for asking supervisors a general question and when asked for an example pointed them to her case. I saw results of a regression analysis of internal data that indicated that grants were systematically awarded in contradiction of ICF policies. This analysis was suppressed and has never been made public. The “compliance” group set up by ICF lacked staff with qualifications sufficient for their work. There was no transparency because their were no permanent policies, procedures, or rules. The ones that did exist were never published and changed at any and all times with not notification or publication. No one at ICF or LRA ever signed any letter or communication...there was no true accountability. ICF and LRA staffers falsified FEMA maps and guidelines in their efforts to impose flood penalties. Once email communications were established we have attributable communications in which staffers cite rules, regulations, and laws that do not exist. I personally contacted FEMA to obtain flood maps and learned about the process which ICF and LRA representatives continued to misrepresent even after Orleans Parish publicly refused to certify proposed changes. I requested the data from the one and only client satisfaction survey conducted by LSU researchers but was denied access to the publicly funded project that was never reported and is apparently being suppressed. My mother-in-law was put out of closings for asking questions about the award and legalities of the closing documents. Closing is an interesting case...applicant/grantee/recipients must pay to have a lean placed on their property in order to receive the grant money. My research has not identified a similar process in Mississippi suggesting denial of equal protection.

All of this experience is documented. I urged my mother-in-law to keep full and complete records from the first meeting on, which she did. She has a holographic record of every call, every communication and every appointment. I can put you in contact with several ICF employees. Much of this information was passed to the local FBI office as well.

No one has been watching while LRA and ICF wasted billions of dollars intended to alleviate the suffering and loss of citizens and rebuild New Orleans. The President said the federal government would do all that was necessary for as long as it took...if we learn nothing else from the aftermath of Katrina its that the President’s word and the good faith of the United States is only as good as the paper it is printed on.

Bernard Johnson for Charles Johnson (father)

My dad and I, like countless others, have begged and pleaded for some semblance of decency from Road Home. Refusal and "ineligible" status has been their response.

It just seems that the program was set up to find ways to exclude rather than include aggrieved citizens in a fair grant award process.

What gives them the right to deem any multi-unit home with more than two apartments ineligible, regardless of the circumstances. I understand this if the owner is an absentee slumlord.

Our "flood damaged" property was my dad's only residence from birth (1925) until Katrina. Ironically, he continues to remain "eligible" to pay taxes on the property.

He asks me why America turned has turned her back on him in his only time of need; him a World War II veteran. What am I to say?

If America insists that we and other taxpaying citizens fend for ourselves in this man-made tragedy, it is no longer the America it once was! It will have become a hollow, meaningless shell of a once-great idea.

Sorrowfully,

Bernard Johnson (for Charles Johnson/Father)


josie

The Road Home Program was a joke that Kathleen Blanco, former Governor of Louisiana should be personally paying for especially out of her pocket. She gave the head of the program a $1,000,000.00 BONUS. This federal money that was given to the hurricane victims should have ALL GONE to the hurricane victims and not in someone's pocket who was getting a paycheck already and was running the operation poorly. WE NEED FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS. Exactly what is Eric Holder, the U. S. Attorney General Doing besides NOT ENFORCING THE FEDERAL LAW ARRA, OR WHAT ABOUT THE FBI task force hot line on Fraud 1-866-720-5721 to report hurricane fraud. The local U. S. Attorneys are IGNORING the FRAUD that is being reported (all types of fraud) and are doing what is called SELECTIVE PROSECUTION. This is wrong, the U. S. Attorneys are ALLOWING FRAUD to happen. Exactly where is Eric Holder, the U. S. Attorney General????

I have been waiting OVER 4 years now and it is expected of me to take the low figure of $30,000.00 to fix my destroyed home. All contractors I have contacted tell me that it needs to be torn down. What am I suppose to do. The Road Home Program representatives do not return phone calls and their representatives didn't do their job and they tell me to go and do their job and send in pictures. They had unqualified staff.

In that 30,000.00 they want me to remove the roof on my house that is made of asbestos. It will take $30,000.00 alone according to local EPA to remove the roof and properly dispose of it. THE ROAD HOME PROGRAM DOES NOT COVER REMOVAL OF ASBESTOS ROOFS. The Federal EPA tells me that they don't have jurisdiction to oversee that this is properly being handled and wished me luck!!!!!

Governor Bobby Jindal of the State of Louisiana wants to petition Congress to get his hands personally on the remainder of the $1 billion dollars so that he cant take care of his pet projects. THIS MONEY WAS INTENDED FOR THE HURRICANE VICTIMS TO REPAIR OR REPLACE THEIR HOMES. These people are so allegedly corrupt so it implys by their decisions and actions.

Our voices are not heard and Senators Vitter and Landrieu are not of very little support, I never get returned phone calls.

The Afro American hurricane victims took out a law suit in Washington, D.C. for the same issues that I am having. Will this help me who is not Afro American?

The Road Home Program only want to close cases and not hear appeals and now they say that they cannot undo past customer service failures......Where is Eric Holder to recover that $1,000,000.00 in bonus money to reapply it to the Program to help the hurricane victims????

Thank you

Josie
Katrina and Gustav hurricane victim

Housing Advisor

I worked for the Road Home Program as a Housing Advisor.
CHAT's accusations are both true and accurate. The way our government treated Louisiana (and USA Citizens) is cruel and immoral. For many of the citizens, the emotional damage is done. Hopefully, those individuals that perpetuated these injustices will be held accountable.

Frustrated in Louisiana

The Road Home designed the program to withhold compensation for MOLD and MILDEW remediation. They have refused to compensate for any type of repair associated with mold/mildew damage to homes of New Orleans which sat in a cesspool of water for weeks due to levee breaches.

I asked a Representative of the Road Home Program if this was a FEMA decision. I was told no. This was a Decision of the Road Home administrators when they designed what criteria they would pay for and not pay for.

This appears to be a dastardly rule designed to withhold funds from Katrina Victims. I had to rehabilitate my home at my own expense, to remove Sheetrock, insulation, ceilings, cabinets in baths and kitchen so as not to be subjected to toxic mold. I even sent pictures only to be told by the Road Home, sorry MOLD/MILDEW is not covered by the Road Home Program.

This is an egregious Road Home Rule that will have lasting health consequences on the children, the disable and the elderly of the New Orleans area. This lack of ethics will effect mostly the poor and the minorities, who have no money to address living and breeding toxic mold spores the rest of their lives.

The Road Home response to the problem: "Well, we paid you for PAINT!!"

I truly feel this was a sinister and a deliberate act of man's inhumanity to man in the wake of a disaster.

A very sinister act to covert the funds of the Katrina Victims.


PS:

The Road Home Program spent $20 million on travel within the first year.

MMindy Milam

I I struggled for several years with Road Home, and the experience of dealing with them was worse for me than losing my home, business and possessions. There were so many inconsistencies in how rules were made and applied. RH based your grant amount on the pre-storm value of your home, which they determined. After I received their initial valuation, (which was not done by a certified appraiser), I hired at my own cost a LA certified appraiser. She placed the pre-storm valuation of my home at $60,000 greater than RH. They refused to accept this appraisal because they had a "20% rule" which meant that if a private appraisal was greater than 20% of the value they assigned to your home, they refused to honor the private appraisal. If a homeowner provided an appraisal that was within 20% of their valuation, RH would increase the homeowner's grant by that amount. I appealed the grant amount they awarded me because I thought they were being "arbitrary and capricious" in how they determined my grant amount and in formulating the "20% rule" policy in the first place. RH said it was HUD's requirement; yet a letter from HUD replies that they defer to the States to make policy. I lost my first appeal - I should also note I had to write this appeal without having access to my file - they told me I was not allowed to see the contents of my file. I was finally allowed to see a copy of my file, and ssaw the comparables they used in determining the value of my home. They used comps in inferior neighborhoods, and houses that were not renovated to the degree mine was. In fact, they used the designation of "typical" in referring to the condition of my home, and did not take into account that I had just completed an addition in July '05 and had made substantial improvements. I lost my second appeal. I compared the prices RH paid for homes in my immediate neighborhood that they purchased after Katrina (assuming the purchase price was determined by pre-storm value), and again found their valuations were very disparate. I don't understand how they could throw out the work product of a LA certified appraiser and instead use a very inferior work product. Also, why, if they refuse to accept my private appraisal, wouldn't they increase my grant amount up to 20%, instead of pretending that the valuation they used is adequate? RH has helped many thousands of people return home, however, they should correct their flaws.....
R

Richard W. Phelps

I am thankful to Melanie Ehrlich, head of CHAT (volunteer-run Citizens’ Road Home Action Team) to become aware of POGO, and post concerns about the Road Home program, so that real change may happen in Road Home (RH), so that families may have their homes finally rebuilt, and their lives restored.

Road Home (RH) has historically been unaccountable to the citizens and elected Representatives and Senators to Baton Rouge, and to Washington D.C.,, for the many concerns expressed about the very poor performance of RH

My family and I spent over a year and a half attempting to get RH (Road Home) to timely process our roof replacement needs, to the point that the roof was not repaired before Hurricane Gustav hit, which caused further minor damage.

Unfortunately, the abysmal performance of the RH call center agents created extreme delays in getting our RH Application approved; losing documentation, not taking "ownership" of one's case, and otherwise delaying the Application process through extreme inefficiency.

I personally had three RH call center workers mishandle my case, until (being disabled) I heard of the Easter Seal Special Needs Counselors, who had been working with Road Home for several years, to assist disabled and elderly with the torturous path of having their Road Home Applications filled out and approved.

My particular Easter Seals Special Needs worker, during 2007, was very respectful, and efficient, in assisting our family with our RH application, unlike the negative experience with the RH call center agents.

In December of 2007, the Easter Seals worker stated that "we are close to completion for your Application to Road Home, for your roof repair."

Easter Seals terminated without explanation by Road Home, January of 2008

Without any explanation, Road Home terminated the services of the Easter Seals Special Needs Counselors, via a one-line terse Fed-exed statement "Your services are no longer needed," (sent to Dan Underwood, the Director of Louisiana Easter Seals).

This was devastating news to not only us RH recipients, but to the Easter Seals Counselors, who now had to, with 30-days notice, find other employment.

This left thousands of senior and disabled Road Home applicants in a sea of confusion and anger, and their cases were delayed six to 12 months, as the "wheel had to be re-invented," as RH workers slowly caught up on the numerous cases.

I attempted, without success, to get an "explanation" from RH, about the abrupt termination of Easter Seals Special Needs workers, and unfortunately, a particular upper-level RH employee made disparaging comments about Easter Seals workers, that

"Oh, Easter Seal Counselors were not really needed; we can do what they did; there was duplicity," in spite of my positive comments that Easter Seals workers were far more efficient at processing our claims, vs. RH workers.

I attempted to "go up the chain of command" in RH, about my concerns about the termination of Easter Seals workers, and the disparaging remarks made of same, but my phone calls were not returned.

My concerns about the Easter Seals Special Needs Counselors being terminated was written up in a late-spring edition of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (reporter David Hammer, who did an excellent job), but I never heard back from RH again, re: my extreme concerns on the above situation.

Our roof claim finally approved, after six-month delay

Finally, after six long months after our Easter Seals worker was let go, a particularly sympathetic Road Home worker (higher up in the organization) finally got our Claim approved, so that our roof could be replaced. Alas, such was not not been the case for other RH recipients, who are still awaiting approval on their applications.

Lack of Accountability:

The situation with the abrupt termination of the Easter Seals Special Needs Counselors by Road Home serves to point out the lack of accountability of Road Home, and ICF, to the citizenry of Louisiana, which must be addressed, so that this will not happen in the future.

I realize my situation was far less severe than the thousands of applicants to RH, that have yet to have satisfactory approval of their claims, who are living in temporary housing, after four years!

I commend POGO for coming to our assistance here in Louisiana, so that the spotlight will shine on Road Home, so that Road Home will "do the right thing," so that thousands of upset Road Home applicants may finally have their homes rebuilt, and have some normalcy in their lives.

Sincerely,

Mr. Richard W. Phelps
wordsmith1776@yahoo.com
Lafayette, Louisiana

Patrick Comeaux

After 1 1/5 years of red tape and lies, our case was rejected. Our insurance company shafted us out of 20K, and the Road Home could not have cared less. We are now paying on a 30 year note, where as before Rita, we would have been debt free within two years. We were severely penalized for moving and not re-building. It made good business sense to move 20 miles further north, but The Road Home did not see it that way. We are among the several thousand people that have been burned by The Road Home. Welcome to the club!

Paul Delande

what's new,
I have been lied to for 3 solid years by RH personel.
Ultimately I was called on Friday after almost 4 years of arguing to be in New Orleans on Monday morning for my grant.Take it or leave it. No RH personel present only a straw title company. Granted 37.000,00 for a 100% loss of a 2400sq ft home that the RH formely appraised for a lousy 120.000,00. (try finding one like this 500 feet from the beach)
Did somebody recieve a million dollar bonus for lying and decieving us? I think so.
Does the RH has more excuses than brain....I know so.
Does the RH needs some serious oversight other then their own cronies investigating their old buddies......YOU BET.

CrescentCityRay

I find it ludicrous that they call it a compensation grant.

The only reasons the state may have leftover RHP money are because of 1) unfair rule from the very start of the program, 2) RHP shortchanged nearly every single applicant and 3) RHP waited to provide opportunities for home elevation funding until after most families rebuilt as best they could with what little they had.

While applicants with federal flood destroyed homes painfully waited years to find out if (and how much) they might get funding help to rebuild their homes, the state richly rewarded the stockholders of ICF for their slow, mismanaged incompetence. When ICF made mistakes they were again paid to make more mistakes and paid again to do the job again to make their mistakes a little closer to correct.

It is unconscionable the way the program was designed to penalize homeowners living in poorer neighborhoods making it nearly impossible for them to receive enough 'compensation' in order to rebuild their homes.

MLee

The Road Home program was the worst kind of corruption imaginable. ICF, who administered the program, was rife with graft and corruption. The lack of response of any state lawmakers to this corruption, the lack of judicial review, the fact that the people in charge of the Road Home are among the wealthiest and most politically connected in the state, and the sorry condition of the rebuilding of the city attest to the farcical nature of this program. Applicants were treated like dirt, plain and simple. Money was handed out parsimoniously, except to ICF. However, this is Louisiana, so what can be expected?

Kenneth Ehrlich

Money has already been divered from the Road Home Program. The money for the so-called Elevation Incentive Award has been drawn from The CDBG Grant program when it could and should have come from the HMGP program, an altogether different pool of recovery money. While the Elevation Incentive award has helped many homeowners, I personally know of recipients who received the award, but have no intention of elevating their homes. Also the money has been given to homeowners so long after the Hurricane's devastation that many have renovated thier homes without the award. It would be far better to make sure that Homeowners who want to rebuild and who do not have the money to complete the job are able to compete for the "left-over" Road Home grant money and those who have been unfairly awarded and appealed have their appeals reconsidered by an independent ombudsman rather than by the state or the contractor.

Christina Stephens

I’d like to clarify a few points:

The Louisiana Recovery Authority has not diverted any funds from the Road Home program, nor has the state sought to divert funds from the Road Home program. There have been discussions at LRA board meetings about what to do with any potential unspent Road Home dollars. As we have explained to the public, and members of CHAT, several times, these discussions are preliminary and that we will serve Road Home applicants first.

We are required by the Louisiana Legislature to report on and do an analysis of our Community Development Block Grant budget, which we have done and will continue to do.

Most important to remember is the state of Louisiana cannot access the $3 billion in CDBG funds allocated in November 2007 for anything other than the Road Home program, as per the Congressional language attached to the allocation. To do so, we would first need the Congress to grant us additional flexibility, which has not happened.

We cannot unilaterally recommit money from the Road Home program. Our board does not have the authority to do so. In order to the reprogram funds, we would have to bring a resolution to our board creating an Action Plan Amendment for funding. Then we would publish this Action Plan Amendment for public comment and bring it back to our board at a future meeting to approve any necessary changes. Once our board approved this Action Plan Amendment, we must present it to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Following this approval, the plan would go before a vote of the full Louisiana Legislature (by mail ballot if it is not in session) before finally being forwarded to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. This is a process with many steps and one that leaves room for input from members of the public and their elected officials.

We have set aside sufficient funds in our budget to cover those remaining in the program, including those homeowners in the appeals process. We are not taking money from Road Home applicants. Quite to the contrary, we actually are early in the process of increasing funds to some Road Home applicants by removing the cap on Additional Compensation Grants through the program, which we estimate could provide around $600 million in funding to some of the neediest Road Home applicants – those with low-to-moderate incomes.

In fact, since January 2008, we have increased total funding available to homeowners by restarting the elevation program with lump-sum grant amounts (which paid nearly $800 million of Road Home funds to applicants), removing the cap on HMGP elevation grants, which provides additional FEMA funds to Road Home applicants and beginning grant payments to applicants who sold their homes at a loss prior to the program’s launch (more than $24 million paid so far). In total, the Road Home has now paid more than $8 billion to almost 125,000 homeowners.

We know that many people had issues with the Road Home program, which is why ICF International is no longer our contractor. It is also why we reworked the appeals process to make it fairer for applicants. Fewer than 8,000 applicants remain in the program, and many of these applicants have difficult title, legal or financial issues that keep them from closing. We are working to assist these homeowners as best we can so that they may move to closing. We cannot undo past customer service failures, but we are working each day to improve the program.

Thank you,

Christina Stephens
Press Secretary
Louisiana Recovery Authority

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