Too Little Has Been Done to Help the Gulf Coast

I am currently touring New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with a delegation of Democratic lawmakers. What has shocked me one year after Katrina is how little has been done. The problem isn’t more money. Congress has already appropriated $110 billion.  One year later though, less than half of it has actually been spent.

There is a great deal of fraud in the Gulf rebuilding, with the 10 largest contracts going no bid. It is estimated that about $2 billion was lost because of waste fraud and abuse. There are 128 schools in New Orleans and only 56 of them will be open for enrollment this month. There are 10 acute care hospitals in New Orleans, and only three of them are able to receive patients. The largest one, Charity Hospital, took 95 percent of the city’s indigent patients and is still completely closed because it was flooded out and has to be torn down. Clearly, the dollars are not reaching the causes most in need.

The situation in New Orleans and many parts of the Gulf Coast is unacceptable and has got to change. The federal government must get its act in gear and get the money down where it is needed.  Reports of insurance fraud by major companies are especially troubling. Congress needs to hold hearings on the waste, fraud and abuse that is taking place. One year later, it’s a disgrace that so many of these people are still homeless, so many communities have not been rebuilt and so many peoples’ basic needs continue to go unmet.