The Katrina Effect: Politics After the Storm | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Katrina Effect: Politics After the Storm

Nobody had ever seen anything like Katrina. Some Florida residents called the storm an insignificant Category 1 when it skidded across the Florida Keys in 2005. It took a dive back down into hot Gulf Coast water after its Florida venture, however, gassing up with heaps of warm air and a whole lot of pain.

By the time it reached Biloxi, it was a massive churning devil filling meteorologists' entire monitor screens with a terrifying white blur.

"When Katrina came, we knew we were in for an entirely different kind of animal," said Ship Island Excursions Capt. Louis Skrmetta of Gulfport.

Skrmetta barely managed to save his fleet in 2005, retying the ship lines after the water rose more than 20 feet with the storm surge. Had he tied them off and left them before the storm, his boats would have likely snapped their lines and gone out to sea, Skrmetta says.

The storm continued to rage inland, tearing up the countryside for at least 100 miles. More than 1,800 people died. The southern states suffered more than $80 billion worth of damage. It is, so far, the most expensive natural cataclysm to hit the United States.

Still, the storm's damage only barely overshadows its political fallout, which is becoming more apparent with every national and state election.

A Useless Drowned Beast
Grover Norquist, the political philosopher whose ideas inspire the current Republican movement, is famous for saying his goal was "to reduce (government) to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Those words hung bitterly upon the ears of New Orleans residents as they meandered around waterlogged, bacteria-infested corpses in the sewer water filling the city, waiting for the federal government to do something, anything to help them.

The levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain collapsed under the weight of the extra water Katrina carried with it to shore, even though the hurricane missed the city by a fraction.

New Orleans resident Jay Stanford recounted his experience to the Jackson Free Press in 2005. Stanford and his nephew were staying at a stranger's house, rescued from the impromptu evacuee camp at the Mississippi Coliseum. He said he first saw the filthy water bubbling up out of the sewers.

"It came out of the street, filled the gutters and was coming up to the house. I was watching it while it was happening. I knew it was time to get the kids," he said.

But the Bush administration had repeatedly slashed levee funding. The Army Corps of Engineers had received considerably less money than it requested for the Lake Pontchartrain project over the past several budget cycles.

In fiscal year 2004, the Corps requested $11 million for the project. The president's budget allocated only $3 million. Congress—often an advocate for popular local projects and frequently a committed friend of the Corps—furnished $5.5 million. The Corps requested $22.5 million in fiscal year 2005. The president saw fit to cut that to $3.9 million. Congress again upped that to another $5.5 million.

The money wasn't enough. A May 23, 2005, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' project fact sheet described the 2004 amount as "insufficient to fund new construction contracts," adding that "seven new contracts are being delayed due to lack of funds," including the floodgate at the Canadian National Railroad and the Gulf South Floodwall and Reach 2A and 2B levee enlargement, all in St. Charles Parish; Reach 1 and Reach 4 levee enlargements in Jefferson Parish; Pump Station No. 3 fronting protection, Robert E. Lee Bridge replacement and the New Orleans East back levee enlargement, all in Orleans Parish; as well as the Bienvenu to Dupre levee enlargement in St. Bernard Parish.

The criticism kept coming after the storm hit, some of the most shrill from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who belted out a stream of complaints on local radio Sept. 2, 2005.

"I told (the president) we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice. And that I have been all around this city, and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we're out-manned in just about every respect," Nagin said.

He then referenced the resources the federal government was spending on the War in Iraq.

"[W]e authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places. Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up—you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man."

Nagin faced his own slew of criticism. He and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco caught hell for failing to work out a New Orleans evacuation plan. Nagin also delayed his emergency evacuation until within 20 hours of the storm's landfall. Then—thinking the federal and state government a paragon of efficiency and on the way with an army of helicopters and boats—Nagin ordered residents to a shelter without any food or water or paid security.

The federal government was no paragon of efficiency, though. Bush had given the directorship of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Michael D. Brown, a former judges and stewards commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, who resigned from the IAHA after a flurry of lawsuits filed against the organization regarding disciplinary actions.

Bush directed Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to organize the federal response, and Chertoff in turn picked Brown as the principal federal official to lead the deployment of disaster response in the Gulf Coast.

Eight days later—as the country continued to watch New Orleans inhabitants scream for help to passing helicopters and Mississippians huddle atop their empty foundations on a seemingly carpet-bombed Mississippi Gulf Coast—the White House recalled Brown to Washington and replaced him with Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen.

Brown resigned as director of FEMA three days later, riding Bush's final, infamous praise: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Cleanup Still Not Complete
The failure that many say summarized the nation's immediate action paled in comparison to the long-standing, nagging failure of the government to clean the resulting mess.

Mississippi Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, says Katrina's onslaught is still apparent around his community. FEMA trailers, identical mass-produced travel trailers made from aluminum and low-grade particle board, still dot the area three years later, even though FEMA initially recommended the trailers for occupation only up to 18 months.

Many residents praised the arrival of a trailer on their denuded property. It beat living in a car.

But the trailers turned out to be hastily banged together with materials barely fit for barnyards—and poisonous, to boot.

Becky Gillette, director of the Formaldehyde Campaign division of the Sierra Club, began fielding complaints from trailer occupants less than six months after the storm hit, hearing tales of difficult breathing, eye irritation, bleeding sinuses and the occasional expired pet.

The Sierra Club financed chemical testing of the trailers and found that 83 percent of tested domiciles had elevated levels of formaldehyde—12 times the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended limit. Formaldehyde is a toxic preservative that keeps wood products tan and healthy-looking for years. Few bacterial cells grow where formaldehyde is present. The stuff does rotten things to living human cells, too.

FEMA ignored the Sierra Club's alarm. Even the EPA took more than a year to get around to conducting its own tests, despite repeated complaints.

The reports of respiratory illnesses among trailer dwellers led to lawsuits in Louisiana against the federal government and trailer manufacturers alleging that "the temporary housing is unsafe and presents a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of plaintiffs and their families." The plaintiffs' attorneys are asking the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana to grant the case class-action status.

"We tried to tell them early on that these trailers were testing positive for formaldehyde, and it took them nearly two years before they even acknowledged a problem," Gillette said. "They wouldn't even forward our results to someone with a phone. I had to mail the information to somebody in Washington, D.C. ... They had the EPA's test results in October 2006, but that wasn't released. They said they didn't know how to interpret the results."

David Paulison, FEMA administrator since September 2005, told Congress that FEMA had "been told the formaldehyde does not present a health hazard," even though an internal memo showed FEMA knew of high levels of a cancer-causing chemical more than a year before, after its own employee safety department ran tests in March 2006.

FEMA recently asked U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt for immunity from the lawsuits, arguing that the agency is not responsible for the behavior of third-party contractors like the ones that built FEMA trailers out of chemical-laced particleboard.

"How dare they say they're not responsible, when we made it so clear to them for months," Gillette said.

FEMA has since moved many trailer occupants to FEMA "cottages." The new structures have a more stable foundation and are capable of permanent placement, but Baria said that money could have been better spent.

"[T]he cottages were a waste of money that could have been used to make homeowner loans. The cottages cost $60,000 a piece, to be built, transported and set up. That money could have been used by people who owned land to rebuild their homes completely. You can do a lot of house for $60,000," Baria said.

Still No Place To Go
The Coast is still suffering from a lack of housing three years after the storm. The nationwide buyers' market makes buying a home easier, even on the Coast. But moderate- to low-income residents—who tend toward rental units—are largely out of luck when it comes to housing.

"It's still very hard to find an apartment on the Coast," Baria said. "You'll have to look a long time to find something."

That could be because the government put a heavier emphasis upon high-end home repairs than rental-unit reconstruction, according to one NAACP report.

The NAACP published a comprehensive report on New Orleans housing segregation in 2007, reporting that the federal government is not falling over itself in an effort to rebuild low-income and subsidized housing. The lackluster response to replace the destroyed housing in some of the city's hardest hit areas are having a gentrifying effect on the city's demographics.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond spelled it out in his speech at the 2007 NAACP annual convention.

"Thousands would be stranded, and they would be overwhelmingly black and poor," Bond said. "That was horrendous enough. Even worse was that it would take five days before meaningful help would arrive. Some would say, with no apology to Clarence Thomas, that we witnessed a modern-day lynching. ... A case in point is New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. The Lower Ninth, one of the most heavily damaged areas of the city, was almost exclusively black."

Bond explained that even though the Lower Ninth Ward's poverty rate was higher than the city as a whole, its rate of home-ownership was equally high, with nearly 60 percent of the ward's residents owning their own homes, compared with 47 percent in the city as a whole.

The NAACP report, "The Accountability Gap: Unanswered Questions Two Years Later," revealed that almost all the federally backed state-funded recovery efforts had focused on homeownership, with nearly 10 times the amount allocated to high-end housing than to replacing rental units or public housing.

Federally approved state hurricane-recovery allocations were $367,500,000 for rental units versus $3,260,000,000 for homeownership programs, according to the report.

Greg White, housing policy analyst for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the situation had yet to improve 10 months after the release of the NAACP report.

"What has been doled out so far is not enough, and we're hopeful that the upcoming domestic supplemental bill, which has not yet been submitted in either the House or the Senate, will hopefully address the lack of rental housing," White told the Jackson Free Press.

Congress established the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with the passage of HR 3221, which could open up an increase in funding for rental housing, but the bill hit the president's desk three whole years after bodies floated through the streets of New Orleans.

Enter Friends of Haley
A report released last year by the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General revealed that FEMA had exposed taxpayers to significant waste, and possibly violated federal law, by awarding $3.6 billion worth of Hurricane Katrina contracts to companies with poor credit histories and dodgy record-keeping.

The report also showed FEMA did not take adequate steps to ensure that companies were small and locally operated, resulting in at least one contract award for Mississippi clean-up to a large firm with clear ties to the Republican Party.

"Based on our analysis, we concluded that FEMA contracting officials exposed the agency to an unacceptable level of risk," stated Inspector General Richard Skinner in the report.

That audit was the first of several that year on Katrina contracting. After criticism for handing out multimillion-dollar, no-bid contracts, Paulison promised to resubmit contract proposals to small and local businesses. PRI-DJI, a subsidiary of Fluor Corp, received $400 million worth of contracts, but Fluor donated more than $930,000 to mostly GOP candidates since 2000.

It was a good time to be the friend of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a high-ranking GOPer and former Republican National Committee chairman. One Florida company, AshBritt, got authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers to do up to $500 million in debris removal, with an option for another $500 million. AshBritt was not a hammer-wielding kind of company, however. All it did was subcontract work out to other companies that did the actual shoveling.

The company is a client of the lobbying firm founded by Barbour. AshBritt paid Barbour Griffith & Rogers $40,000 just prior to the storm for "assistance and guidance with regard to disaster mitigation issues," according to public records.

The owners of Ashbritt also paid $50,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004.

Barbour lobbied Congress hard for Katrina relief money for Mississippi, and with the help of Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran (who occupied lofty positions in the then-Republican-dominated Senate) managed to grab an impressive pay-out to the state for cleanup work. But critics say Barbour also used his newfound influence over the resulting cash to reward good behavior in the Senate. Barbour has exclusive power of the Mississippi Development Authority, to which he gets to appoint members. The MDA was particularly friendly to contractors who worked well with Barbour.

Rep. Jamie Franks, a Democrat from Mooreville in North Mississippi, accused the governor of steering an MDA contract award to former Sen. Tommy Robertson and Reps. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, and Jim Simpson, R-Gulfport, to oversee hurricane-relief grants. Franks went so far as to allege that the generous contract award made sure Robertson killed a bill to raise the tobacco tax during the 2007 legislative session. Barbour, whose firm also lobbied for tobacco companies, has religiously opposed any tobacco tax increase.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission investigated the Robertson contract, although Republican-appointed committee members stalled the investigation.

At the time, Robertson refused comment, but lost his re-election bid that year. Barbour did not return calls for comment.

Making Red States Bluer
The numerous failings and shady deals on the government's end during the Katrina debacle may have proven to be the philosophical turning point in the debate over shrinking government, according to Bob Moser, author of the new book "Blue Dixie: Awakening the South's Democratic Majority."

"To a certain degree, people have gotten over Katrina, but you do see, in just about every poll question that's asked, peoples' better appreciation that the government needs to be competent and needs to be responsive, and they seem to have a greater willingness to pay taxes to see that happen, and to a greater extent to help the poor. At least that's what people are telling pollsters," Moser told the Jackson Free Press in an interview during his recent book tour.

Moser said the Norquist philosophy is having a hard fight against the reality of what government is able to do while in the hands of people screaming for its shrinkage.

"I think people are getting, to some extent, that those who claim to be anti-government have difficulty running government half the time," Moser said. "People are making that connection, I think."

Former New Orleans Upper Ninth Ward resident Deidre Jackson is one of the people who believes the government should have been better prepared in 2005, and criticizes its funding and management shortages.

Jackson currently teaches cooperative education at Forest Hill High School.

"Government should be better financed when it comes to emergency issues, of course. We needed more oversight. We needed a lot more oversight, but more than anything we needed the government to run the way it was supposed to, the way it was set up by our Constitution," she said.

Her attitude is similar among that of the "millennials," younger voters coming of age in the last decade, who don't seem to carry their parents' characteristic fear of higher taxes and bigger government.

Kenneth Grigsby, a member of the Young Democrats of Mississippi, said the younger set isn't quite ready to jump whole scale behind Norquist's vision of eliminating the government.

"They're not as afraid of government, and that's more a product of the situation we're in right now. The economy's at an all-time low, and lots of people are looking at the housing market, foreclosures, and all the other government failings over the last few years, and they're saying, 'let's fix it, and if it takes higher taxes and more government intervention than so be it,Ҕ Grigsby said in an interview.

"We all believe that government has a part to play in dealing with economic and environmental issues. While we don't want to believe that government should be the end-all, we do believe that it shouldn't be excluded from the process."

The new book, "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube & the Future of American Politics," written by Vice President Al Gore policy adviser Morely Winograd and Michael Hais, predicts a cyclical upcoming political shift as a result of a new "civic" generation moving into politics—and confronting "triggering events that cause a societal and political crisis," such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the government's inadequate response to Katrina.

"Even as the Bush administration continues to demonstrate its inability to rebuild New Orleans, large majorities in popular opinion in favor of a forceful and competent government response in times of emergency have not dissipated, especially among community-oriented Millennials," the book's authors state.

Both Sept. 11 and Katrina "sparked interest in politics on the part of the Millennial Generation," they argue and served to awaken a slumbering concern for the environment.

"Hurricane Katrina raised the specter of environmental catastrophe, and the Bush administration's slothful and ineffective response to it created even more anxiety and unhappiness," the authors posit.

"... Since Katrina, the public has demonstrated a newfound interest in the entire subject of global warming and its potential impact on the world's future."

New Kids In The Bloc
Hinds County figures on new registered voters certainly tell a tale of renewed interest in the presidency.

Last year, there were 7,735 new registered voters between Jan. 1 and Aug. 21. But the final three months of 2007 saw more than 1,800 new registrants, as the fog of war for the Democratic primaries coalesced into the more prominent campaigns of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. That last figure was, apparently, only a taste of what was to come.

A total of 12,001 new voters registered with Hinds County between Jan. 1, and Aug. 21 this year. Between the beginning of January and Feb. 9—the deadline for registered voters to be able to participate in the 2008 primaries—the county registered 7,425 new voters. Arizona Sen. John McCain was already the presumed Republican nominee, so the numbers suggest the county has a very pointed interest in the Democratic nominees.

Hinds County District 4 Election Commissioner Connie Cochran said the numbers are perplexing to her.

"My understanding is that everybody is supposed to be leaving Hinds County for the suburbs. All the reports say Hinds County is losing population, but if that's so, then these voting registrations just don't make sense," Cochran said. "It's quite a contradiction."

Voter registration drives by the NAACP and other organizations may explain some of it. The organization has been focusing its efforts around the state, making liberal use of mail-in ballots to facilitate the process, despite Republican Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's attempts to demonize the process as a form of identity theft.

Hosemann—who had predicted both parties to produce only between 125,000 to 150,000 voters combined for the primaries—issued a Feb. 15 statement urging citizens to be wary of door-to-door registration facilitators, explaining that the secretary of state "does not endorse these organizations. Your best bet is to visit your circuit clerk's office to register to vote. This will ensure your voter registration card is filled out correctly—without mistakes and with privacy."

Nevertheless, the influx of new voters may have already played a role in the outcome of the Democratic primary.

Obama collected 255,809 votes from Mississippi, and Clinton got 155,686 votes. Third man down, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, got 3,894. McCain, who virtually ran unopposed, garnered 113,000 votes.

The combined total of the eight Democrats on the Mississippi primary ballot, 420,750, falls short of the 684,981 votes that went to President George W. Bush in 2004, but likely will creep higher in the final months leading up to the November election.

Hinds County, for example, registered almost 5,000 new voters since the primary.

The political philosophy of younger voters seems to merge with the that of the Democratic Party, which typically favors more effective and better-funded government rather than drowning it in a tub.

A Pew Research Center report shows that young voters are trending Democratic and make up an important constituency for the party.

A clear majority of registered voters ages 18 to 29 call themselves Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party while only about a third identify with the Republican Party. It's a standard trend, according to Pew. Young voters were the age group that gave the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry his highest level of support—he drew 64 percent of Mississippi voters under 30 in 2004, the highest in the South—and the age group most supportive of Democratic Party congressional candidates in 2006.

"Also notable in those high-profile elections was the fact that voter turnout among young adults increased even more than it did among other age groups," Pew states.

Scott Keeter, a news analyst for NBC News and director of Survey Research for the Pew Research Center, wrote that NBC News exit polls showed that young voters' share of the Democratic electorate in the 2008 primaries was higher in nearly every state for which a good comparison with 2004 is available.

"In all of the 2008 contests for which exit poll data are available, young people have constituted an average (median) of 14 percent of Democratic primary voters, up from a median of 9 percent in the set of comparable contests in 2004," Keeter wrote.

He pointed to a surge in youth turnout in all states, including largely white midwestern states, and states with traditionally high Republican participation like Mississippi.

"Millennial Makeover" authors say the Democratic Party's future is more or less sealed in the younger generation's collective attitude.

"Party identification distribution among 18-to-29-year-olds in 2002, when most in that group were Gen-Xers, was 39 percent Republican and 37 percent Democratic. ...When Millennials first began to make their presence known (in 2004 races) Democrats took a small edge (37 percent vs. 34 percent) over Republicans"

Authors point out that in the 2006 primaries the ratio of Democratic to Republican identifiers was 1.75:1. "f the trend continues at that rate, in 2010, when all members of this age group will be Millenials, Republicans could face an almost 2:1 deficit in party identification among 18-to-29-year-olds," authors say.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White said his state party needs to make a bigger effort to reach down to the under-30 crowd.

"We're trying to rebuild and re-energize our Teen-age Republicans, which is an organization that I was a member of years ago. We've got College Republican chapters, (and are) trying to expand that even into the community colleges. The Young Republicans need a kind of revamp because that group's been kind of in the funk for the most part."

The New Wedge
The youth vote had been largely a no-show at the ballot box in years past, but the nation's concern over energy independence, the souring stance on an Iraq war that smells faintly of military draft, the faltering economy and growing alarm over the world's impending environmental crisis are nagging at the backs of youth.

Environmental issues are a particularly keen issue with youth, because they'll be dealing with it over the next few decades while Gramps gets ferried happily off to the afterlife.

While the economy sits most plainly upon the minds of voters under 35, according to Pew, Katrina served as a reminder of the environmental issue facing the next generation.

Democrats are eager to seize upon the momentum Katrina inspired, as indicated in a recent press conference in front of the remnants of what used to be the Gulfport city library prior to Katrina's unloving embrace.

The Mississippi Democratic Party attacked McCain, demanding he "explain why he won't support a national catastrophic insurance fund; why he voted in July 2006 against efforts to increase funding and oversight of FEMA; and why he voted in May 2006 against $28 billion in hurricane relief."

"President Bush has failed," said Gulfport City Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines, who explained that McCain had been endorsed by the unpopular president.

"A close examination of Sen. McCain's record makes it clear he guarantees the equivalent of a third Bush term and the continuation of failed Bush policies that have harmed our state and nation."

Holmes-Hines pointed out that Obama was looking to deal with the Brown issue by appointing a FEMA director (who will serve a fixed term in office) and report directly to the president. "Do we elect a George W. Bush ally, or do we elect a candidate who has specific ideas and can correct the problems of the past?" Holmes-Hines asked.

Baria said he was not willing to write off the entirety of the Republican-driven disaster response and subsequent cleanup. "There are some aspects of the federal response that went fairly well," said Baria, adding that he turned down an offer to speak at the Holmes-Hines press conference.

"Frankly, I have to give credit to our governor for doing a good job of lobbying. Without his lobbying and Thad Cochran's efforts, I don't think the Coast would have fared as well, post Katrina, as it did. That's not to say we did as well as I think we should. We've made great strides since Katrina, but we have a very long way to go, and they need to be reminded of that every chance we get."

The Dems are aiming hard at attracting the rush of new voters with different attitudes. Their motivation is perhaps indicative of the fresh face manning the Mississippi Democratic Party this year.

Franks, the same guy calling out Barbour for steering government money to Senate pals, adopted the party's chairmanship in July. Franks was one of the more aggressive House Democrats on environmental and regulatory issues and frequently joined Reps. Steve Holland, of Plantersville, and others to push for state advertising regulation, bigger unemployment packages and full funding of Medicaid and K-12 education.

The new party head freely admitted the generational difference between himself and outgoing Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy. "Mr. Dowdy did a great job, but I'm going to be from a different generation. I'm 35; he's 64," Franks told the Jackson Free Press.

The Dems are aiming hard at attracting the rush of new voters with different attitudes. Their motivation is perhaps indicative of the fresh face manning the Mississippi Democratic Party this year.

Franks also contends that the state Democratic Party is "a huge umbrella" whose occupants must remain tolerant of a wide variety of political views, so long as they remain focused on bettering the condition of the middle class.

White said the Republican Party should attract new voters by presenting a clear, easily defined message, rather than by watering down its platform: "f we make clear who we are and what we are, there will be a piece of the population out there that will share our beliefs."

Parker Wiseman, president of the Young Democrats of Mississippi, said the future of his party is rooted in adopting younger voters and the variety they bring. He added that young voters do not differ much in their views toward the needs of government.

"Many youth are clear on their desire to improve the system. We can't say it was just Katrina. Katrina was just another example of where government needs repair, and the youth are more keen to jump in and fix it. They're more optimistic about whether or not they can fix it, too," Wiseman said.

"They're not afraid of hope."

Hurricane Green: Who Profited?

KATRINA INDEX: Who's getting the money?

• Pre-Katrina affordable rental housing units in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, the three hardest-hit Mississippi counties: 25,234
• Post-Katrina affordable rental housing units in those same three counties: 19,535
• Community Development Block Grant dollars allocated to repair/rebuild rental housing in Mississippi after Katrina: $260,000,000
• Community Development Block Grant dollars disbursed to repair/rebuild rental housing in Mississippi: $0
• Dollars allocated to repair/rebuild public housing: $100,000,000
• Dollars disbursed to repair/rebuild public housing: $1,000,000
• Dollars allocated to homeowner programs: $2,500,000,000
• Dollars disbursed to homeowner programs: $1,600,000,00
• Number of Mississippi families still living in FEMA trailers as of April 2008: 7,574
• Number of Mississippi families moved from FEMA trailers to FEMA cottages: 2,700
• GO Zone funds allocated: $5,000,000,000
• GO Zone funds disbursed: $3,750,000,000
• Number of residential units damaged in "high damage" cities: 14,433
• Number of residential building permits issued since Katrina in those same cities: 4,216
• Total Katrina dollars allocated: $38,500,000,000
• Total Katrina dollars not yet disbursed: $8,000,000,000-plus
• Most important obstacle to recovery in the housing market: access to financing

Sources: FEMA, Mississippi Economic Review and Outlook, STEPS Coalition, Rand Gulf States Policy Institute

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