The GAO’s Director of Strategic Issues, Stanley J. Czerwinski, provided testimony today on Gulf Coast Rebuilding to the Senate’s Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Pdf here)
The major finding, not surprisingly, is that in spite of Bush’s highly touted $110 billion for rebuilding very little has actually gone to anything other than immediate emergency needs. From the testimony…
A substantial portion of this assistance was directed to emergency assistance and meeting short-term needs arising from these hurricanes, such as relocation assistance, emergency housing, immediate levee repair, and debris removal efforts.Consequently, a relatively small portion of federal assistance is available for longer-term rebuilding activities such as the restoration of the region’s housing and infrastructure.(my emphasis)
Czerwinski reported that the federal appropriations thus far should be viewed in context of the need faced on the Gulf Coast…
It may be useful to view this assistance in the context of the costs of damages incurred by the region and the resources necessary to rebuild. Some damage estimates have put capital losses at a range of $70 billion to over $150 billion, while the State of Louisiana estimated that the economic impact on its state alone could reach $200 billion. Such estimates raise important questions regarding additional assistance that will be needed to help the Gulf Coast rebuild in the future.
Czerwinski testified those important questions to Congress would specifically be…
• How much will it cost to rebuild the Gulf Coast and how much of this cost should the federal government bear?
• How effective are current funding delivery mechanisms—such as Public Assistance and CDBG—and should they be modified or supplemented by other mechanisms?
• How can the federal government further partner with state and local governments and the nonprofit and private sectors to leverage the public investment in rebuilding?
Czerwinski also stated that “rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast are at a critical turning point” with all levels of government needing to make decisions of great and lasting impact.
There is also good info and comparison of efforts in MS and Louisiana in the testimony.
None of this is surprising. Anyone driving through the Gulf Coast would see little rebuilding taking place.