Katrina’s second anniversary highlights recovery problems

Today’s two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina highlights the failed policies of President Bush and Gov. Haley Barbour in helping all Mississippi storm victims rebuild their lives.

While some people are back in their homes, the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports 17,538 FEMA trailers remain in service in Mississippi is totally unacceptable.

“To put it plain and simple: Mississippians shouldn’t be living in FEMA trailers two years after Katrina,” said Wayne Dowdy, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party.

Nothing underlines that fact better than the stark contrast of re-opened businesses and casino resorts that sit blocks away from destroyed neighborhoods in Biloxi, where longtime residents still struggle to rebuild.

One problem has been the Katrina Homeowners Assistance Grant Program, a $3 billion federally funded program the state has overseen. The program has been mired by delays, red tape and questionable management by the Reznick Group of Maryland.

As of today, the program had paid less than $1 billion to 13,690 applicants. Meanwhile, the Reznick Group is reviewing travel policies after a newspaper reported this summer that taxpayers were billed for limousine service and airfare for Reznick employees working in Mississippi.

“That money could have been used to help homeowners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Dowdy said. “Instead, the grant program’s delays, red tape and questionable expenses simply highlight the ineffectiveness of Gov. Barbour’s recovery plan he touts.”