NEW ORLEANS -- It's an $8 billion program, and now, the Louisiana Recovery Authority estimates that as many as one in three people who received Road Home grants still have not rebuilt their homes.
The legislative committee that will take over when the LRA sunsets in June asked some tough questions about the Road Home Program Wednesday, and why for some, it may be more than a five-year journey.
FEMA trailers were supposed to be temporary homes for the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
But nearly five years after the storms, the LRA estimates there are still a 1,000 people living in FEMA trailers, mostly in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.
“That is a disturbing number. That is people who did not have the resources in hand to rebuild, or its people who did have the resources but were victims of contractor fraud, some family fraud or some friend fraud,” said LRA Executive Director Robin Keegan.
Some of them already received Road Home grants. In fact, the LRA and demographer Greg Rigamer estimate that one out of every three people who received Road Home grants still aren't back in their homes.
“We know that in Orleans Parish and St. Bernard, we have serious, serious problems. We are not rebuilt. We have properties that have been untouched since the day of the storm,” Keegan said.
“Shocking to me. When you drive around, it's not shocking to me. There are a lot of things in St. Bernard Parish that haven't been done,” said Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Violet.
State lawmakers also questioned the cost of administering the program. The state is paying two contractors. First, the controversial company ICF, and now a company called HGI will receive a total of $750 million to run the Road Home by the end of this year.
Keegan argues it's a massive program that's labor-intensive.
In fact, nearly five years after the storms, 2,300 people still have yet to close on their grants.
“We are talking about a big program, but still when you spend $8 billion dollars and you have one out of every three people that can't move back into their home, you have to say, what's going on here,” said Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans.
More than 5,700 of the Road Home's original grant recipients have already reached their three-year covenant of when they were supposed to be done rebuilding.
By the end of this year, 80% of recipients will reach that three-year mark.
Now, the Road Home will begin tracking compliance, and either help homeowners finally rebuild with the billion dollars left over in the program, or get the grant money back from those who have no intention of rebuilding.
In two weeks, the LRA will begin sending out letters to those 5,700 homeowners who've reached the three year mark to find out exactly how many of them are back in their homes, or are never coming home.