Anyone in the state who has received the letters is encouraged to attend the meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers at New Orleans City Hall, according to a news release from Cantrell’s office:
The Louisiana Legislature’s joint Hurricane Recovery Committee will meet 5:30 pm Monday, February 24 in New Orleans City Council Chambers. The committee will address Road Home collection letters that have been sent to homeowners, demanding repayment of program grants that were originally dispersed for rebuilding houses following Hurricane Katrina.
Road Home has been sending these letters to homeowners, who properly used the funds to fix their homes. Anyone, no matter his or her parish or town, is encouraged to attend this meeting, which is open to the public. New Orleans committee members Reps. Neil Abramson, Jared Brossett, Sens. Ed Murray, Karen Carter Peterson, David Heitmeier and J.P. Morrell put the issue on their agenda. State Office of Community Development Director Pat Forbes and other state officials will address the committee on the issue.
The meeting is a result of an investigative story by local reporter David Hammer and Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose office has received numerous phone calls from worried homeowners that received the letters.
“Road Home has been sending these intimidating letters for months now, and I am relieved that the committee is taking up this issue,” says Cantrell. “I am concerned that some folks will pay back these grants out of fear that no one is standing up for them. Please attend the meeting. I will stand up for you and we will get this resolved.”
Cantrell, who herself received a letter, adds that for many of these homeowners the money in question covered only a small percentage of the total bill for fixing their homes. The federally-funded and state-managed Road Home program was started after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. The Congress devoted more than $13 billion for the program, and the state awarded monies to more than 117,000 recipients.
Unfortunately, The state has failed to keep any acceptable data on homeowners, who are not in compliance. As a result, the Road Home is responsible for much of the blight that plagues our neighborhoods. The state paid $900 million to Road Home contractor, ICF International, to run the program.