NEW ORLEANS -- A new round of problems with the star-crossed Road Home rebuilding program was the subject of a special New Orleans City Council hearing Wednesday.
Homeowners whose homes flooded during Hurricane Katrina packed the council chambers to question why they are being held accountable for glitches they didn't create.
Complaints range from contractor fraud, missing paperwork, duplicate requests from administrators and demands for documents that don’t exist, including some lost in the storm.
But a new wave of dissatisfaction is reaching a fever pitch because of recently issued letters from the state demanding repayment of grant money.
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who called for Wednesday’s meeting, estimated that about 13,000 people have received the demand letters even though they complied with state guidelines through every step of the complicated process.
“Out of the 13,000 families in our city who are impacted only 1,300 have reclassified their case. And less than 40 have been approved,” Cantrell said during an appearance on the Eyewitness New Morning Show. “Certainly there’s a problem when you’re talking about 13,000 families.”
Cantrell also revealed that she is one of the recipients of the claw back letters, requesting her to repay $7,000 in grant money, but not stating the reasons for the request.
Raymond Hampton Jr. was among the Road Home recipients who recounted their hardships at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I sent this (paperwork) to the Road Home four different times,” Hampton said, holding up a stack of documents. “Three-hundred pages four different times. And each and every time they told me they lost it. My mother's as well.”
Hampton said he is being asked to repay money, even though by his calculations, the program owes him money.
“Now I have to come up with $17,000 in order for them to give me $83,000,” Hampton said.
Homeowners, activists and officials are now asking state officials to pay for more case workers to help people with what has been described as a nightmarish bureaucracy.
Pat Forbes, director of the state office of community development, said he would do what he could, including fulfilling a request for another $500,000 for the extra case workers.
“There are a lot of people out there who just need to get us a document,” Forbes said at the meeting. “And for whatever reason, if that's not coming to the Road Home we welcome any opportunity, whether it's the city council, non-profits or any other opportunity that we can use to engage homeowners.”
While Forbes made no promises, he agreed to return to the City Council by Katrina's anniversary on Aug. 29 to provide an update.