A Jindal administration official told legislators Thursday that the recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita is drawing to a close.
Roughly $1.3 billion remains to be spent from a federal aid package that topped $13 billion.
“We are not a permanent agency of the state. Our objective is to go out of business,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of the state Division of Administration’s Office of Community Development.
He said Louisiana is ahead of other states in spending recovery dollars from the 2005 storms.
Forbes went before the Louisiana House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs to give an update on hurricane recovery programs.
The state is responsible for overseeing the spending of billions of dollars in hurricane aid.
Several legislators told Forbes they wanted to speak to him after the meeting on issues affecting their districts.
“I’m still disturbed by the fact that we still have housing that still has blue tarps,” state Rep. Regina Barrow said.
Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, said the state needs to extend help to those residents.
Blue tarp-covered roofs dotted south Louisiana after the 2005 storms. The tarps were supposed to be a temporary measure to protect homes with damaged roofs.
State Rep. Robert Billiot, D-Waggaman, said he is concerned about flooding from a more recent storm. Hurricane Isaac caused heavy flooding in Plaquemines, Jefferson and St. John the Baptist parishes.
“I’ll get with you on that,” Billiot told Forbes.
Forbes said 89 percent of the money for hurricanes Katrina and Rita has been spent.
The recovery funds came in several batches. The allocations included:
- $11.5 billion for housing programs designed to help hurricane victims return to their homes, nonprofits rebuild, restore rental property and assist the homeless.
- $323 million for economic development programs, such as recovery loans and tourism.
- $1.4 billion for infrastructure programs.
The largest allocation was $9.8 billion in housing assistance. The Road Home program was established to help homeowners in the hurricane-affected areas rebuild or relocate.
Seven years after the storm, the allocation of money is now flat while the spending rate is flattening out.
The largest unspent balances are in housing and infrastructure programs.
The money is allocated. It just needs to be spent.
Forbes said most of the remaining dollars will be for administrative costs as the recovery reaches the end.
He said the recovery needs to be monitored to ensure the state does not have to repay the federal government any money.
Barrow asked if money is ever reappropriated because it is not being utilized.
Forbes said that happens often, citing a loan program that did not work.
He said the money was moved into housing construction.
He said his office also is overseeing the recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which made landfall in 2008.
Of the $1 billion in federal aid appropriated for the 2008 storm recovery, nearly all has been obligated, and $788 million remains to be spent.
Forbes said the Gustav and Ike recovery is at an earlier stage but progressing well because of the experience the state gained in handling the 2005 storms.