With its response to Hurricane Katrina under attack on Capitol Hill, the Bush administration is seeking $19.8 billion more to help the Gulf Coast rebuild. The Feb. 16 request includes about $7.2 billion for construction and related work and $9.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

President Bush’s new proposal includes $4.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Louisiana, which got $6.2 billion in such aid in December. The new grants would be “for flood mitigation through infrastructure improvements, real property acquisition or relocation and other means to reduce the risk of future damages and loss,” the Office of Management and Budget said. New Orleans-area levee and canal improvements would receive about $1.5 billion.

The latest request would augment $87 billion Congress approved since September to help the region rebuild after the onslaught of Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) says she would push for “as much federal help as we can responsibly justify.” But she adds, “Even with this new proposal, there remain tremendous unmet needs.” There are proposals to use royalties from offshore oil for added rebuilding funds, says Landrieu spokesman Adam Sharp.

How Construction-Related Items
Stack Up:
HUD block grants for Lousiana
Corps of Engineers
  • Installing canal gates
    pumping stations
  • 530

  • Storm-proofing pump stations
  • 250
  • Armoring levees, floodwalls
  • 170
  • Building closure structures on inner harbor navagation canal
  • 350
  • Restoring wetlands
  • 100

    VA (Rebuilding New Orleans Hospital)
    Dept. of Defense Construction, O&M Interior Dept.
    Interior Dept.
    GSA (Cleanup, repairing buildings)
    * O&M Items include some equipment costs
    SOURCE: Office of Management and Budget

    Bush’s funding request came one day after the federal post-hurricane effort was battered on Capitol Hill. At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, lawmakers from both parties lambasted the Dept. of Homeland Security and its FEMA unit for being unprepared for the storm and failing to act quickly or effectively after it hit.

    Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “The federal department that was supposed to lead, direct and coordinate the federal response to Katrina was, time and again, late, uncertain and ineffective.” The panel’s top Democrat, Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman, said many federal agencies “ran around like ‘Keystone Cops.’ ”

    DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff conceded there were “many lapses” and took responsibility for the department’s actions and for making improvements. Chertoff said Feb. 14 that he planned changes in logistics, communications, debris removal and handling claims.

    On Feb. 16, a special House committee released a scathing report on hurricane response, apportioning criticism to federal, state and local governments and others.