Thursday, August 24, 2006

Out the Door and into the Hands

President Bush on Monday:
First things -- the first thing that's necessary to help the recovery is money. And our government has committed over $110 billion to help.
He added that the money is “out the door.”

Federal Coordinator for the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding Don Powell on Tuesday:
The $110 billion, I believe -- correct me -- there's been something like $44 billion that has been into the hands. I would hesitate to follow up on that -- I would not hesitate, I would remind you that 75 percent of the money that has been appropriated is at the direction of the state and local people.
So, $110 billion is “out the door,” but only $44 billion is “into the hands.” That’s less than half of the number Bush is touting.

Chairman Powell elaborates:
Q Just to understand, you said just a minute ago, $44 billion has been spent.

CHAIRMAN POWELL: I think that's correct, $44 billion.

Q Out of the $110 billion?


Q And then 75 percent of the $110 billion is at the direction of the state and the local government. Of the $44 billion, how much of that is state and local spending?

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Well, I would say 75 percent of that, whatever that is.
So, out of the $44 billion that has gone into someone’s hands, 75% or $33 billion has gone into the hands of the states and cities affected by the hurricanes. The number keeps getting smaller.

Some of us down here may think that more money should have been “into the hands” by now, almost one year later. Well, the President has something he wants us to understand:
You know, I went to New Orleans, in Jackson Square, and made a commitment that we would help the people there recover. I also want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. This was a huge storm.
You see, Katrina was hu-u-u-ge. We were, like, the Tiny Elvis to Katrina’s hugeness. And it’s gonna take a while to recover.

Over the next week, we are going to hear the $110 billion number over and over again. Yes, it is a big number. Yes, we are grateful. But – and I haven’t done this in a while – let’s break it down.

We know where $87 billion came from:
* September 2, 2005 – $10.5 billion in a disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – $51.8 billion in a disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – $5 billion in a spending bill (along with $24 billion diverted from already authorized funds, but not new money)

*June 15, 2006 - $19.8 billion in a spending bill
Which leaves $23 billion to account for.

I would say that $21 billion comes from counting flood insurance claims, which the federal government has been known to do when reporting how much money they are sending down here. I think you know how I feel about counting flood insurance claims as recovery money. If you don’t, here’s a recap:
The National Flood Insurance Program didn’t have enough borrowing power to pay the amount of claims after this hurricane season, so Congress did the only thing it could do and raised the NFIP’s borrowing limit. [edit: ultimately to $20.8 billion] The Senators and Representatives did not do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They had to do it.

Why did they have to do it? FEMA’s Flood Smart website says it all:
You can count on your claim being paid in the event of a flood loss because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the Federal government.
If you still think flood insurance claim payments should be included as “hurricane relief” because it all comes from the U.S. Treasury, I ask you to read FEMA’s top ten reasons to buy flood insurance, specifically reason number eight:
You can depend on being reimbursed for flood damages because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the federal government, even if the President does not declare a federal disaster.
Flood insurance is guaranteed. It is coming to you whether or not any “hurricane relief” or any special bill is passed by Congress. It is no more than what you are due if you have flood insurance. And, believe me, if you are undercovered, they surely don't give you any more than what you are due.
Somebody needs to check me on this, but I think they are fudging the numbers again when they say how much money is “out the door.” On top of that, less that half of it has gotten any further than past the threshold.

Then there is this from Tuesday's joint press conference:
Q But about $30 billion has not been obligated by the federal government. I'm wondering why that is.

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Well, I think that was -- the difference between there is in anticipation of monies that will be needed to meet specific needs.

Q For --

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Infrastructure, insurance -- I mean, the flood insurance program.
That floating $30 billion could be used by the NFIP to pay off what it borrows from the US Treasury to make its flood claims payments. If that happened, then tax payers’ money would go to pay of flood claim payments, which appears to contradict this recent FEMA press release:
Flood insurance claims are paid by policyholders’ premiums, not tax dollars.

UPDATE by Mark C. in the comments: Bush is counting the $20.8 billion in flood claim payments, as evidenced by his cheat sheet:
Katrina: 110 Billion

16.7 Bil Housing

6 Bil [illegible; possibly "Levee's"]

1.8 Bil -- educ.
(and spent [illegible] Sept.)

2.0 Bil -- Health

20.8 Flood Insurance

39 B Immediate help
rentals, trailers
debris Removal

[Two illegible lines, although percentages and the underlined word "Dry" appear to be visible]

[Illegible] Infrastructure
I would like to find the actual picture to link to so I can confirm that it is his actual notes. I guess I can trust the Huffington Post. Until then, here is a photo from a little further away that looks similar but is not legible.


Seymour D. Fair said...

TINY E: Whoooooaaaaa---look at the size of that salt shaker . . . .

Anonymous said...

So when the money does get here, does it all go to the Shaw Group?

Mark C.

Anonymous said...

Bush has it broken down for you on his cheat sheet.

Mark C.

da po' boy said...

Mark C., that is crazy. He is definitely counting flood insurance. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

By the way, here is where I came across it originally, not sure if it will help track down any verification.

Mark C.

Zihuatanejo said...

we need more watchdogs like this one:

Pometacom said...

What a scum sucking boondoggle.