Another $51.8 billion in emergency federal aid is heading for Louisiana and other Gulf Coast areas slammed by Hurricane Katrina. The large infusion of funds will be welcome, but it’s far from the end of federal spending needed to clean up and rebuild from the storm’s widespread rampage.

"My expectation is that we will, in fact, need substantially more than the $51.8 billion...but this at least puts everybody on very solid footing to perform their tasks in the several weeks ahead," Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten told reporters Sept. 7.

Highlights of $51.8-Billion Spending Package
$50 billion for Disaster Relief Fund, including:
  • $23.2 billion for assistance to individuals and housing aid
  • $11 billion for tasks assigned to other agencies and reimbursable from the FEMA disaster relief fund, including $5.5 billion to other agencies (including HHS, DOT, GSA)
  • $7.65 billion for public assistance
  • $1.65 billion for 100,000 trailers for temporary housing
  • $3.6 billion for FEMA operations (logistics, supplies and materials, urban search and rescue)
    $1.4 billion for repairing military facilities in Gulf area, personnel evacuation, cleaning up debris, plus transportation, emergency utilities costs
    $400 million, to repair damaged pump stations and levees, and restore navigation locks and channels
    Source: House Appropriations Committee, Office of Management and Budget
    SOURCE:House Appropriations Committee, Office of Management and Budget

    The latest aid package, which Congress approved and Bush signed into law on Sept. 8, follows $10.5 billion in emergency funds approved Sept. 2. Concerned that large contracts are being awarded so quickly, and hoping to avoid a similar debacle surrounding emergency contracts to rebuild Iraq, some lawmakers are considering special oversight to audit Katrina-related awards.

    Of the newest installment, $50 billion will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its Disaster Relief Fund. FEMA’s share includes $23.2 billion in direct aid, including housing assistance, to those hurt or displaced by Katrina. The FEMA allotment also includes $11 billion for other agencies carrying out "missions" assigned by FEMA.

    The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to receive $3 billion and the Dept. of Defense $2 billion of that $11 billion, to reimburse them for costs incurred for the FEMA assignments. In addition, the Corps will get $400 million from the new emergency aid measure to repair pump stations and levees in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast areas. The other $200 million would be used to restore navigation locks and channels.

    But post-Katrina costs will require still more federal funds. Bolten wouldn’t say how much more he anticipates the White House to request. But Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Sept. 13 that repairing and rebuilding hurricane-damaged roads and bridges could cost $2.45 billion, including $1.3 billion for Louisiana and $1.1 billion for Mississippi. If Mineta's cost estimate is even roughly accurate, future aid packages will include a large amount for highways.

    BRAC: Final Plan Spares Some Posts From Closure
    The independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission formally recommended on Sept. 8 to shut 22 major Dept. of Defense installations and make changes at 33 other large posts. Those results differ from DOD’s own plan, released in May, which called for closing 33 bases and realigning 29.

    For construction, a key figure is the $21 billion in "one time up-front costs" that BRAC says are needed to carry out its recommendation. That includes substantial sums to build new facilities at bases that will gain personnel from posts to be shut. Another $226 million would go for environmental cleanup at bases to be closed.

    President Bush has until Sept. 23 to review the BRAC list. If he accepts it, the plan goes to Congress for an up or down vote.

    EPA: Mercury Rule Survives Senate Attempt To Block
    The Senate Sept. 13 beat back an effort by opponents to undo a controversial Environmental Protection Agency rule that regulates mercury emissions from powerplants for the first time. Opponents are mostly Democrats but also a few Republicans from states where the plan’s "cap-and-trade" formula allows emissions that they believe is still high.

    "I am extremely encouraged by the Senate’s resolve to support a market-based approach to reducing mercury pollution and not to impede clean air progress by rolling back the existing regulation," Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) says. GOP leaders called the vote "purely political," as a House vote was unlikely. And, President Bush had threatened to veto the measure.

    Ports: New Grants Will Aid Security
    The Dept. of Homeland Security on Sept. 13 awarded $142 million in a fifth round of grants to help secure 36 U.S. ports. That brings the amount of funds awarded to $489 million in five years since the Port Security Grant Program began. Matching funds from the private sector added another $33 million.

    For ports impacted by Hurricane Katrina, funds will be held in reserve until proposed security projects are ready to be implemented.

    Compiled by Sherie Winston and Tom Ichniowski