Two months after Hurricane Katrina displaced more than 1 million people, problems with federal housing aid threaten to spawn a new wave of homelessness.That "thousands" in Texas, by the way, may be upwards of 65,000. And compassionate conservatism? Fuggedaboutit!
In Texas, thousands of evacuees who found shelter in apartments face eviction threats because rents are going unpaid.
In Louisiana, some evacuees are beginning to show up in homeless shelters because they haven't received federal aid or don't know how to get it.
Advocates for the poor say the situation will worsen this winter.
“They are the poorest folks … and they are the ones who are going to be left with nothing,” says Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It's going to show up at homeless shelters this winter.”
FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews says the agency is not considering changes. Any city that runs its own program will be reimbursed, she says.Well, yeah, that's pretty damned callous, alright.
Evacuees who have trouble using FEMA's three-month, $2,358 rent checks can get help from caseworkers. “If (landlords) choose to evict people,” she says, “they're free to do that.”
Houston spent its own money for apartments for more than 5,000 families and issued rent vouchers for 25,000 more, says Sharon Adams of the city's Hurricane Housing Task Force.
Dallas used private funding to house about 2,000 families for two months, but the money will run out soon.
“As callous as it sounds, our commitment to them was two months,” says Celso Martinez of the Dallas mayor's office.
So, people of New Orleans: we built the levees that made your city possible, provided public housing for the poor so they could work in your hotels and restaurants, moved you out of the city and housed you, but now? Well, time's up. You're on your own. Again.
Oh, and somehow, for some reason ("partisan politics?" Surely not!), Alaska is sucking up a lot of federal money that is needed at the other end of the nation.
Capitol Report has learned about a provision tucked away in the Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill that would direct Medicaid money intended for Katrina affected states (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana) to Alaska.Pardon my parochialism, but: the South gets screwed again.
The Budget Reconciliation package (PDF) contains $71.4 billion in new savings but it also spends $32.4 billion. Portions of that new spending were intended to be Katrina relief funds, but it seems Alaskan interests have once again succeeded in redirecting funds (PDF) to the state which has become famous for its "Bridge to Nowhere."
In addition to providing money for Katrina states, the provision also changes the way Alaska receives federal assistance for its Medicaid services. By changing the federal funding matching percentage for Medicaid in Alaska, the provision will provide an additional $130 million in federal Medicaid funding for Alaska. This additional $130 million is a direct result of tampering with federal matching percentages that results in Alaska being relieved of Medicaid related fiscal burdens that all the other 50 states face.
So, even though dozens of other states will face the same fiscal pressures as Alaska over the next few years, only Alaska is set to receive additional money.
Is this a great country, or what?