Angry crowd packs hearing on Road Home asking for money back

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 25 at 8:07 AM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Emotions ran high inside City Hall on Monday night as dozens of residents showed up angry about the Road Home program asking for its money back.

State officials listened to homeowners' concerns at a special hearing sparked by an Eyewitness News investigative report.

"If you took money, moved and left your house here next to your neighbor to let it rot, we're going to get our money back. But for the people who did everything right, who tried to get back in their house, to be harassed, to be threatened, to feel threatened, is not acceptable," said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.

Nearly a decade after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes. Many of the homeowners who showed up to City Hall on Monday night after work are still fighting the Road Home battle.

Some have received letters from the program alleging they aren't in compliance while others or being told they were overpaid.

"She's not just interested in the $30,000 and where the $30,000 went, but she said she has a record of my receiving $119,000, can you imagine?" said one resident addressing the Hurricane Recovery Committee.

There was testimony after testimony from homeowners and community activists frustrated by a program they say is plagued by problems.

"HGI is no better then ICF. We still have a bad contractor," said Viola Washington with Road Home Action Network Team.

"We're asking for a waiver on those letters. There shouldn't be any money returned to Road Home until an investigation of this federal program has taken place," said Washington.

Initially the grant program was intended to help channel nearly $10 billion towards rebuilding homes after Katrina.

However, since grant money was distributed to homeowners the state has been under pressure to recover money that hasn't been properly spent. An Eyewitness News investigation by David Hammer uncovered the Virginia company that ran the program making more than $900-million.

State lawmakers put the state agency in charge of Road Home in the hot seat Monday night.

"Why doesn't she have a letter that tells her she's no longer responsible?" asked state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.

"Because our legal counsel says that we will completely wipe out any chance we have against ICF," said Pat Forbes, who runs the state agency in charge of Road Home.

It was a resounding call from state lawmakers and the community to overhaul a program clearly in need of change.

"I would ask you to seriously in the very short term revisit the 70 or however many case managers you have, bring them in and get them up to speed on what should be happening in this program," said state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.

 

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