The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery held a hearing last Thursday entitled “GAO’s Analysis of the Gulf Coast Recovery: A Dialogue on Removing Obstacles to the Recovery Effort.”
Mary Landrieu, as Chairwoman of the subcommittee, asked the first question, which she addressed to Stanley Czerwinski, the Director of Strategic Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). There’s a link on this page to the video of the entire hearing. Here’s my transcript of Landrieu’s question about 36 minutes and 16 seconds in:
MARY LANDRIEU: You mentioned the $110 billion, and that’s a number that’s thrown around here a lot for different reasons. But, we’ll leave those aside.Czerwinksi begins his answer by saying it is hard to answer. He goes on to say that about $16 billion has gone to rebuilding through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and a “segment” of the public assistance money has gone to rebuilding. He does not give the exact number of that segment, but says in is not more than the CDBG money.
I’d like to get just clear for the record. If you could, say, break down the 110 billion as you did in your testimony, but, repeat it, how much has gone for immediate short term, individual assistance, how much for the insurance, which people paid premiums for, although the program came up. And what has been basically the remaining for the rebuilding effort?
You said most of the money has gone for the short term… smaller amount for the long term. And could you be a little more clear about those numbers.
STANLEY CZERWINSKI: Sure thing, Landrieu. Um…
When is comes to disasters, it’s very difficult to come up with precise accounting funds because of the way that it’s budgeted.
He starts to address insurance, but Landrieu interrupts him. Here’s my transcript of what is said about 38 minutes in:
MARY LANDRIEU: Well, it’s very important for the country to understand this. So, if you want to present this testimony to the committee in a different way, then you can.That’s it. That’s really all I’ve been trying to get at all this time. If the Gulf Coast has gotten $110 billion to rebuild, where is it? How can we know if it is enough to rebuild if we don’t know how much has gone to rebuilding?
But, it’s very important for us to have on the record of this committee, as much as we can, where this $110 billion has gone to, to date, so we can arrive at whether we’ve spent enough or not spent enough for what it’s going to.
That’s all I want to know. And, now that we have a Congress controlled by Democrats, it looks like we will finally find out. When Democrats took over Congress, this subcommittee was created, and Mary Landrieu got the chair and the chance to ask the GAO about the $110 billion we’ve heard so much about from the White House.
Chairwoman Landrieu continues:
MARY LANDRIEU: So, I think, for the purposes here, we can say that not much more than 16 billion has gone to the long term recovery. It could be another half of that amount or…Money given to the Gulf Coast for long term recovery after the hurricanes: “not much more than $16 billion.”
STANLEY CZERWINSKI: That’s probably fair.
ML: …would that be near. I don’t want to lead you here.
SC: That’s probably fair. Rough magnitude.
$110 billion my ass.
Mary Landrieu, Democrat-LA, continues:
ML: We know that 23 billion went to flood… flood. And Chairman Powell, if you have these numbers. 23 billion went to flood. The rest of it basically went to immediate emergency shelter, individual temporary assistance in the direct aftermath of the disaster because of the multitude, millions of people involved in that evacuation, resheltering effort, etc.Landrieu mentioned the flood insurance payments. Earlier, she mentioned that we paid premiums for that flood insurance.
Is that accurate?
SC: That’s correct Madam Chair.
Finally, someone mentioned that we paid premiums for that flood insurance. Yes, almost $21 billion that goes to paying those flood claims had to be borrowed from the U.S. Treasury (the other $2 billion comes from premiums).
But that $23 billion is not rebuilding money. It is holding-up-the-federal-government’s-side-of-the-contract money:
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.You can count on your federal government. But can your federal government count?