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Company blamed for slow Katrina recovery
Waterbury Republican-American ^ | January 31, 2007 | Melinda Deslatte (A.P.)

Posted on 01/31/2007 9:07:10 AM PST by Graybeard58

BATON ROUGE. La. -- Nearly eight months after it was hired by the state, a consulting company in charge of dispensing billions in federal aid to people whose homes were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has received 103,000 applications but handed out fewer than 400 grants.

And now the company is getting much of the blame for the overall slow recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Frustrated homeowners are bitterly criticizing Fairfax, Va.-based ICF International Inc., and state lawmakers are demanding Gov. Kathleen Blanco fire the company. But ICF is defending its handling of the aid program, saying it is a task of unprecedented proportions.

ICF was awarded a contract valued at up to $756 million in June to run the Road Home program, a $7.5 billion federally funded, state-administered program to compensate property owners whose houses were damaged or destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes. For ICF, the contract amounts to a potential 10 percent commission.

"ICF should be ashamed of themselves. They should never have even attempted to take on a project like this. They were obviously not equipped to do it," said New Orleans homeowner Mark Samuels, who lives with his three children upstairs while he rebuilds his gutted home.

He is haggling with Road Home over how much aid he should receive 17 months after Katrina breached a floodwall and swamped the house with foul water. Samuels said he is contesting ICF's first offer, made Jan. 4, because it was one-third of what he expected and based on inaccurate damage figures.

Other homeowners have complained about incorrect paperwork, a labyrinthine bureaucracy, unreturned phone calls, low-ball assessments of their homes' value and the damage done, stingy grant offers and a slow-moving process overall. ICF has taken final action on only 391 applications.

ICF maintains it is ahead of the schedule specified in its contract to run Road Home, a program it helped design before winning the bid. ICF officials also say the program is unparalleled in size and complexity. More than 2,000 people are at work on Road Home, some for ICF, others for subcontractors.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers ordered an audit of the program after ICF refused to provide an itemized breakdown of $19 million in employee travel expenses billed to the taxpayers. The company denied any wrongdoing, and said the state's public records law does not require it to turn over such information.

In addition, lawmakers have complained that lawyers working under Road Home are being paid more than other attorneys working on business for the state -- up to $375 an hour, according to the ICF contract.

Blanco this month also began blaming the slow pace of Road Home on Washington Republicans.

The White House and other federal officials have denied that the decisions made about New Orleans were politically influenced.

The handling of the Road Home program drew fire Monday from members of a Senate Homeland Security Committee, meeting in New Orleans.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said money is "still not reaching ordinary folks" quickly enough. "Until it does," he added, "all the numbers, the meetings and the planning that's being done is inadequate."

The Road Home is offering homeowners up to $150,000 each to rebuild, fortify their homes or sell out to the state. As many as 123,000 people may be eligible.

A team of state and national officials chose ICF to run the program, determining the company had more hands-on experience than other applicants, said Suzie Elkins, director of Blanco's Office of Community Development, which oversees ICF's work. ICF's bid was not the lowest offer.

Elkins defended the hiring decision. "ICF had a good reputation," she said, adding that she was satisfied with the company's performance so far.

The timing of the contract was good for ICF: It bumped up ICF earnings just as the company was going public on Sept. 27, 2006. Analysts rated the stock a "strong buy."

Douglas Beck, an ICF vice president, discounted any link between the Road Home contract and the taking of the company public. He said the ICF board decided in December 2005 to go public and did not hear about Road Home until last April.

Samuels, whose house was valued at $700,000 before Katrina, said flood insurance gave him $100,000 to make repairs to the damaged, 30-year-old home, but he said his repair costs were estimated to cost more than twice that. Samuels' grant offer from Road Home was $43,000.

He said that from Jan. 4 to Jan. 22, he called Road Home representatives "at least once just about every single day and sometimes two and three times." Last week, Samuels talked to a grant adviser and asked for a re-evaluation.

Samuels, who owns a jazz recording company, said he wonders how people without computers and without lawyers can wander through the maze: "If I can't get through this system, I really know that there are very few people who can."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS:
They offer this moron $43,000 - as a gift - and he says it's not enough.
1 posted on 01/31/2007 9:07:10 AM PST by Graybeard58
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To: All

In other words, we don't want accountability for a free hand out, so we will criticize this company.


2 posted on 01/31/2007 9:10:48 AM PST by excalibur1701
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To: Graybeard58
7.5 billion federally funded, state-administered program

said Suzie Elkins, director of Blanco's Office of Community Development, which oversees ICF's work. ICF's bid was not the lowest offer.

Looks like Democrat operatives are again trying to blame a STATE screw-up on the Feds.

3 posted on 01/31/2007 9:13:52 AM PST by digger48
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To: digger48

Looks like Democrat operatives are again trying to blame a STATE screw-up on the Feds.

Have since the beginning. Sadly, Bush accepted the failure as his.


4 posted on 01/31/2007 9:35:49 AM PST by edcoil (Reality doesn't say much - doesn't need too)
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To: Graybeard58
Samuels, whose house was valued at $700,000 before Katrina, said flood insurance gave him $100,000 to make repairs to the damaged, 30-year-old home, but he said his repair costs were estimated to cost more than twice that. Samuels' grant offer from Road Home was $43,000.

Hey moron...it's not worth $700,000 now and the $43,000 you've been offered is a GIFT from the taxpayers. Gawd! I'm so sick of all this whining and complaining...I just wish we could bulldoze the levees and let nature take it's course.

5 posted on 01/31/2007 9:55:28 AM PST by pgkdan (Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions - G.K. Chesterton)
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To: digger48

"...the Road Home program, a $7.5 billion federally funded, state-administered program..."

"Blanco this month also began blaming the slow pace of Road Home on Washington Republicans."

NEWS FLASH: Blanco's a partisan idiot!

TC


6 posted on 01/31/2007 9:56:12 AM PST by Pentagon Leatherneck
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To: Graybeard58
They offer this moron $43,000 - as a gift - and he says it's not enough.

Exactly! Someone needs to knoch this a-hole upside his head.

7 posted on 01/31/2007 9:56:45 AM PST by pgkdan (Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions - G.K. Chesterton)
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To: Graybeard58

This story reminds me of the joke about a supply sergeants. Basically the punchline is "If i issue the item you want, I won't have any inventory.

If they give all the money away. They won't have anything to manage.


8 posted on 01/31/2007 10:17:46 AM PST by art_rocks
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To: Graybeard58

But the Dem politicos say it's all Bush's fault.


9 posted on 01/31/2007 10:36:33 AM PST by popdonnelly (Our first obligation is to keep the power of the Presidency out of the hands of the Clintons.)
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To: Graybeard58

"the Road Home program, a $7.5 billion federally funded, state-administered program"

But the Dem politicos say we're not doing enough.


10 posted on 01/31/2007 10:38:18 AM PST by popdonnelly (Our first obligation is to keep the power of the Presidency out of the hands of the Clintons.)
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To: Graybeard58

"Samuels, whose house was valued at $700,000 before Katrina,"

He lives in a $700,000 house, and he wants the taxpayers to pick up all of his repair costs? But the Dem politicos say Bush doesn't care.


11 posted on 01/31/2007 10:42:56 AM PST by popdonnelly (Our first obligation is to keep the power of the Presidency out of the hands of the Clintons.)
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To: pgkdan
"I just wish we could bulldoze the levees and let nature take it's course."

That's what will happen naturally anyway. Would be nice to speed it up a bit.

Carolyn

12 posted on 01/31/2007 10:45:20 AM PST by CDHart ("It's too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the b@#$%^&s."--Claire Wolfe)
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To: Graybeard58

I'm sure Blanco will try to blame this on Bush.


13 posted on 01/31/2007 10:47:04 AM PST by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: MEGoody

She already did. LOL


14 posted on 01/31/2007 10:48:05 AM PST by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: Graybeard58

Not clear from the story is an obvious long delay between the hurricane and the hiring of ICF. It'd be interesting to know the actual date Blanco's people finally got around to giving them the contract.

It's also kind of interesting that Blanco's complaining about the pace while her employee is saying there's no problem. Lots of disorganized 'ducks' around that administration. They ought to decide on one lie and stick to it.


15 posted on 01/31/2007 10:51:36 AM PST by ArmstedFragg
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To: Graybeard58

Ah, my old employer! They should have lost this contract a long time ago!


16 posted on 01/31/2007 10:53:37 AM PST by KC_Conspirator
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To: ArmstedFragg

From other sources:

ICF wasn't hired until June.


17 posted on 01/31/2007 10:55:28 AM PST by ArmstedFragg
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To: ArmstedFragg
"They ought to decide on one lie and stick to it."



This is still their favorite...

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people”
18 posted on 01/31/2007 11:06:46 AM PST by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life ;o)
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To: Graybeard58

CONSULTING: If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

www.despair.com


19 posted on 01/31/2007 11:07:28 AM PST by NOLA_homebrewer
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To: MEGoody

"I'm sure Blanco will try to blame this on Bush."

Blanco isn't the only one...

“I often think we would have been better off if the terrorists had blown up our levees,” she said. “Maybe we’d have gotten more attention.” Mary Landrieu, 1/29/07

http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl012907tplandrieu.2f011766.html


20 posted on 01/31/2007 2:58:15 PM PST by LibSnubber (Liberal democrats are domestic terrorists)
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To: LibSnubber

Good heavens, Landrieu and Blanco are idiots.


21 posted on 02/01/2007 5:52:31 AM PST by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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