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April 29th, 2008
10:34 AM ET

They gave him money to fix his house. Now they want it back.

New Orleans residents affected by Katrina may have to pay back the money they were given in grants.
New Orleans residents affected by Katrina may have to pay back the money they were given in grants.

 

Randi Kaye
360° Correspondent

Every time I go to do a story in New Orleans I hold onto a little piece of hope that things are going to be better this time.

That the community is going to be more healed, that the town is going to look more alive, and that the programs put in place to help homeowners are actually doing so.

Well, I should have known better.

Imagine this: Louisiana residents – after all they’ve been through and all they’ve lost – are now being billed by the state for nearly $200 million!

Yes – you read that right, $200 million.

Why? Well – it turns out the contractor hired by the state to dole out federal dollars designed to help homeowners rebuild... uh... well... how do I say this... OVERESTIMATED!!

The contractor, ICF International, may have overpaid as many as 5000 residents. In other words, the state gave these people too much grant money after state inspectors estimated home damages.

In all, homeowners could be asked to pay up $175 million. Some families could be on the hook for $150,000 each!

I interviewed a New Orleans man named John Montegut who had spent about $100,000 repairing his home. About $20,000 of it was from a state grant, part of that federally funded Road Home program to aid homeowners. Well, he just got a bill in the mail for $13,000 from the state telling him they’d overestimated his grant payment.

How’d that happen? Montegut told me the state’s inspector included in his damage claim the repair of six skylights (he doesn’t have any skylights!!) and the replacement of 22 windows which were far above the water levels and completely unharmed. Montegut says the inspector was in his house for five minutes and he was not allowed to see the damage claim so had no way of knowing what was included.

Here’s the killer: Montegut doesn’t have the money to pay the state. He spent that money fixing up his house. But he and every other homeowner who got a grant signed a contract with ICF agreeing to pay money back if overpayments were later discovered. Now remember, he wasn’t even allowed to see his paperwork. Montegut told me he never expected he’d owe the state money. But it turns out the actual cost of repairing his house was far greater than the grant anyway.

The contractor, ICF, told us it is a federally funded program and the state is demanding that it ask for repayments. ICF is promising a “compassionate process” and says it doesn’t expect a large number of families to be affected but we’ve learned from an advocate for the homeowners about 300 families have already been billed. The state plans to fine ICF for its mistakes and it plans to hire an auditor to review every case.

Is it cruel, as homeowners have said, to ask residents for money back after all their suffering following Hurricane Katrina? Or, as resident John Montegut told me, “They (ICF) made mistakes all along, why should people suffer?” What do you think? We'd like to know.

Program Note: See Randi Kaye's “Keeping them Honest” report on AC360 tonight at 10pm.

 

soundoff (601 Responses)
  1. Chris- Gulfport, MS

    I am a youth minister in Mississippi, just moved here this past september. I was unaware of how "bad" it was down here. It was hard to imagine what it was like after the storm and trying to rebuild and move on with life after Katrina. I have found that everyone from the gulf coast has stories to tell about going through this awful experience. Some, will never be the same. Almost 3 years later and people here are still in "a fog" that has never really left them. We have members of our congregation that are making house payments on houses that are no longer there. They are still living in FEMA trailers, which by the way are making people sick. But, I think the worst part of it all are the families that had house insurance, which included disasters like this...the companies are not paying. We have families locked in court battles with these insurance companies where this should have been done a long time ago. There is still a lot of work to be done, not only in New Orleans but all along the Gulf Coast. If you are interested in helping please visit the UMCOR web site and they will be able to get you more information on sending money or bringing a group down to work. Thanks, and God Bless!

    April 30, 2008 at 10:34 am |
  2. Don

    Not diminish what the people of New Orleans went through, but give me a break. This is the government giving these people our money to rebuild thier homes because they didn't pay for flood insurance. The guy on Andersons report said he spent almost twice what the Government wants repaid. That means we, US taxpayers paid for over half of the repairs to his house when the grant was to pay only 20%.
    It sadens me to see "360" put this story out in a way that makes the government look bad because they are, for once, trying to be good stuards of our money. The reason New Orleans isn't built back as fast as it should be is because of this exact type of government waste. Good for them on getting it back.
    The injustice would be to not get the money back.

    April 30, 2008 at 7:49 am |
  3. Noo Awlins Born 'n' Raised, Dawlin'!

    The idiocy, self-righteousness, ignorance, and generalizations of most of the comments on this board astounds me. Clearly, none of the people who made such posts have ever set foot in New Orleans, unless perhaps they went to the 200-600 blocks of Bourbon Street.

    New Orleans was founded in 1718, was THE major port of the 19th century, and has done way more than its share in contributing to this (once-) great nation. And we aren't even talking about its cultural gifts, which far outweigh those of nearly every other city in the United States.

    Historically, Louisiana stretched across the entire Gulf Coast. We share a culture and common frames of reference across the region. We have been survivors of catastrophic fires, floods, yellow fever, military occupation, changes in government, and the pollution, disease, and death that come from refining oil for the likes of the Bush family, Condoleeza Rice, and Dick Cheney. Particularly when it comes to the oil industry, we have been getting screwed for nearly a century now. This country owes us more than it can EVER hope to repay.

    I've had it with the self-righteous "you-did-it-to-yourself" crowd. NO. YOU did it to all of us by voting in the filthy devils who preside over this mess. If you want to gut an entire city, start inside the Beltway, baby.

    Show some respect. Otherwise, bring your superior self on down to Gentilly, the Ninth Ward, or New Orleans East and get your hands dirty. At least that way, you'll have some idea what you're talking about the next time you post.

    April 30, 2008 at 5:53 am |
  4. mel

    I do not understand why the government will lend a helping hand to home owners that buy a house that is too expensive for them yet when people's homes are destroyed in a natural disaster they want money back???

    April 30, 2008 at 2:51 am |
  5. Travis and Cheryl Loz

    You can tell the company made the mistake and did the classic greed on peoples misfortunes! A company should take responsibility and suck it up! America has to start taking care of its own and worry about the people and the country will come along!
    Or come to Canada! lol

    April 30, 2008 at 2:10 am |
  6. J. M. Cornwell

    Since the overpayment came about from the contractor's estimates, it should be the contractor paying the overage and not the homeowner, especially when the homeowner has spent more than the grant in fixing the house. Conversely, the amount of actual repairs should be factored into the grant repayment and the contractor should make it good. It's certain the contractor didn't lose on the deal.

    April 30, 2008 at 1:04 am |
  7. Pat White

    The residents of New Orleans, La. continues to suffer long after Katrina; they are no longer victimized by the howling winds, rapidly rising waters, and the stench of death both human and animal brought on by Hurricane Katrina, but now they are bombarded with the ineptitude and arrogance of a gov't that was suppose to mitigate their suffering. For ICF to use the word "compassion" is insulting and hypocritical. Since ICF with-held documents that could have revealed critical info on expenditures allowed and not wait until after monies were spent, ICF should reimburse the State.

    April 30, 2008 at 12:31 am |
  8. J Reid

    CNN did a story a few weeks ago about the US government allocating 600 million for assistance in the rebuilding efforts for the victims of Katrina. In that report it was stated that the funds were diverted with the intent of using the funds for a "casino and to improve the harbor".
    Maybe CNN could investigate these appropriations from the state &
    federal government with regard to accountability, malfeasance, and
    determine who is responsible for seeing to it that the funds get where they are supposed to go. That 600 million could go along way toward building housing for those people living in the FEMA trailers.
    Low cost housing projects could also be used for eventual housing for the elderly as the Katrina victims eventually relocate when they get
    back on their feet. There doesn't seem to be any accountability for
    the funds appropriated. Maybe with some press coverage identifying the apparent void in monitoring these projects, there may be improvement.

    April 30, 2008 at 12:27 am |
  9. Amber

    Something he said in the interview hit me... The state would not allow him to review their inspection report. I'm not a lawyer but it would seem to me that if the homeowner is denied access to the inspection report they should not be held responsible. Had the homeowner had access to the report they could have pointed out mistakes earlier on to avoid repayment. As in this interview the 6 skylights the homeowner never had.
    I think if the state wants the money back from overpayments they should go after the company who did the inspections not the homeowners.

    April 30, 2008 at 12:20 am |
  10. Renee

    Honestly I am outraged at all the free-bees the government gives out. What's with all these grants? If this happened to my house I would not be getting any grants, nor would I expect the government to fix things for me. Most of these homeowners (as they are called) didn't even own their home. A lot of these people were in assisted housing, and on wellfare. This is what happens to people who expect the government to take care of them. And when has the government ever been able to make peoples lives better, for crying out loud?!!

    April 30, 2008 at 12:11 am |
  11. Bobby Vidrine

    I am from Louisiana and I will tell you what is going on. The Road Home program that our State was running only had a certain amount of money and it was sooo confusing to know if someone qualified. One week certain parishes, next week No wait, then: the money was overspent "according to homeowners/contractors" estimates but our Intelligent former governor was running tv ads telling people to keep on submitting claims even though a fourth grader could see money was technically gone!!!! Gov. Blanco was counting on pressuring the federal gov't. into pouring much more money in and it DID NOT WORKOUT. NOW they want the financially strapped people to bail our gov't out of Blanco's non-sense..

    April 29, 2008 at 11:57 pm |
  12. Sharon from Indy

    Randie:
    So what is the government going to do, start foreclosing half-recovered homes? This is a disgrace.

    April 29, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Lula who's fed UP!

    IT'S BEEN (3) THREE years since Katrina. How long does it take for someone to get back on their feet?

    Should the money be repaid? YES! Repay debts just as you would with the IRS, food stamps, student loans, social security.

    My 62 year old dad has to repay 8k b/c the state made a mistake when issuing him his social security checks when he had ankle surgery. They claimed they overpaid him. That an emergency life situation and he had to return to work fulltime so he won't lose his house after my mother died but he's willing to satisfy his debt. The government isn't perfect and neither are the loudmouths who keep claiming the government doesn't act quick enough like during the Katrina incident. The money is coming out of our pockets so PAY IT BACK!

    April 29, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  14. bob

    Bev,

    Homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood damage. The VAST majority (I'd say at least 75%) of the damage done by Katrina was done by flooding. If you had flood insurance you were OK. If you lived on the coast or in N.O. below sea level and didn't have flood insurance, that is your own stupidity. Live and learn and quit trying to blame your mistakes on others.

    April 29, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  15. kimkan

    wow ~ what a blow to an already hurtful situation: 2,000 people dead, 80% under water for an average of 57 days, 400,000 jobs lost and 275,000 homes destroyed, … and the best our government can do is to demand that grants be repaid when it should have free money because you all are taxpayers? what a loathsome, detestable country we live in!!!
    icf's past financial messiness should have made them ineligible for being awarded a government contract in the first place. even in the face of several conflicts of interest, and icf was recently awarded a merrill lynch contract!? i sound a HUGE rat in requiring the residents to repay for what was an inflated grant in the first place!
    it just goes to show what being aligned with blanco and bush can do for the haves while leaving out the have nots and making them pay for not having ~ is that the american way!!

    April 29, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  16. Lilibeth

    This suspiciously sounds like the “Walmart story” that happened recently, in which the victims were asked to return the money paid to them. I hope the hurricane victims get the same outcome and get to keep the money. Please continue to follow this story.

    Lilibeth
    Edmonds, Washington

    April 29, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  17. Michael J Rice III

    I am a recipient of a Road Home Grant and served as a Notary Public for many closings for such grants. Each notary was instructed to inform each recipient as to conditions for the grant and situations that could require repayment. A document signed and notarized at the closing was the restrictive covenants that attached to the property for at least three years.

    We did not know how the amounts were calculated at the closing, but I informed everyone who sat with me of their appeal rights and how they could get that information in the appeal.

    For me, the grant was the only way I was able to complete the repairs to my house and I am grateful for that. I have not received any letter asking for any money back yet . . . but I know I will need to give money back when I finally settle with my insurance company.

    That is one of the covenants that I explained to everyone who sat with me. Using the damaged house as rental property within three years is another covenant I explained.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm |
  18. anne newfoundland, canada

    Just when you think you had seen it all regarding anything to do with the mess that is Hurricane Katrina,something else pops up.
    It is hard to believe that it will soon be 3 years come August.

    Is Ray Nagin still the mayor of New Orleans,he is never seen on anything much it seems,is he keeping a low profile?

    I also hope 360 can also focus on some of the OTHER places along the Gulf Coast damaged by Hurricane Katrina as well,like those in Mississippi-Waveland,for instance,among others.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  19. bob

    Let's see if I read this story right. A whopping $1.75 million is owed by as many as 5000 families. And "some" of those families could owe $150,000. How many is some? 5 or 10? 10 at $150,000 would amount to $1.5 million, meaning that the other 4990 would divide up the remaining $250,000 or about $50 each. But wait, the gentleman in the story wasn't paying back the $150,000 rather only $13,000 so there must be others that are being billed large amounts. So most of the people would be paying back even less than the $50. And for this, some of you are getting angry?

    April 29, 2008 at 6:27 pm |
  20. Jesse

    Yes this is like the mortage crisis like people said it was, and they have a point about people reading and understanding the document before you sign, but what about the banks that loaned people the money and in the end loss the loans to foreclosure? the Fed is giving them billions of dollars and helping banks so they won't go under. they are the ones who got the bailouts and the people get the short end of the stick, also Bush is opposing any bill that would give people that same bailout, come on. Its all about profit, thats why CEO's of banks got so much money in they paychecks but yet the banks themselves went down. Sure! god bless america right? if u ask me they are goint to turn New Orleans into a billion dollar profit by making houses only the rich can affortd.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  21. bill heilmann

    Here is my take on the Katrina mess: everyone is pointing fingers – remember there are three fingers pointing back at you. So let's start looking at within. What is my part in this deal. Let's face it- you just got a check for $150,000 for 'repairs' – you know damn well you could never get $150,000 for the house even before Katrina. You know damn well it was an overpayment. You know damn well that the thought came across your mind- 'they will never come back for it' – 'the bureaucracy is too great' – 'I cant believe i got this windfall'- well guess what – the individual compromised what was the right thing to do- they took the money. Hum- now we have the poor victim scenario again.

    When are these so called victims going to take accountability? When are they are going to ask themselves – is this the right thing to do?- choices and consequences- hum a new thought.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  22. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Thank you for covering this story and honoring a promise made almost three years ago. It means more than any of you will probably ever know. While I'm not from New Orleans, parts of my family are, and some of my fondest memories are of times spent in New Orleans, Slidell, and Arabi (in St. Bernard Parish). i will always be saddened by the storms and their aftermath. I will always know good, decent people were hurt and treated like trash after Katrina in a way no human being should ever be treated. And pitifully, some are still being treated that way today. I will always also know that good, decent people have my greatest thanks for helping this state to recover after Katrina and Rita. I know this state has a long, long way to go and will get there eventually. I know Katrina is still a topic of pain and sadness for many who grieve the losses she brought. Ditto for Rita. I'm one of them. But life moves on. And people are trying. I encourage everyone to come and see the damage and talk to the survivors before you judge. Share in their tears and joy. Then try to decide who is worthy and who isn't of help and hope.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  23. Johnny Tax payer

    My heart goes out to these folks. I have a question? Why do you wish to continue to be seen as the victim? What was the property value before the disaster... Absolutely pay back what is overpaid to you. Do you not read what you sign? ... Hello... How bout some honest reporting here another 360, please. How did many of these folks live before the disaster? How about some real reporting of the government tax dollars, fraud, waste and abuse. There are disasters in every state in the nation. People are expected to take control of their lives at some point in the game. Folks were given money from FEMA and reported recently that they are continuing to receive rental assistance who is paying for this? and still many are displaced all over the nation. A home that belonged to a family for generations and three generations were living in the home not contributing to the household income. Grandparents left to pick up the pieces while adult children ran off to purchase large screen TV's and designer clothing in government funded free living. Is HUD not currently funding rental payments today? Funds from FEMA, the road home program, American Red Cross, Church's and other volunteer agencies. Living in hotel, cruise ships, refusing to leave when leaving leaving the place in squallier. Why are renters and homeowner treated equally. If you rented you paid rent why is the government still assisting renters??? I would like someone to help me with rent I lived thru a disaster and got one month rental assistance and was gratefull. Folks were given phone card, gas card, and free airfare, free medical from volunteers from every state. Donation from minimum wage earners, and sweat equity from youth all over the nation. I would venture to say that everyone funded given there was a stimpulation that if there was a duplication in funds Federal tax dollars would need to be returned. So return it... Is there a stimpulation that if you accept the money and rebuild without insurance and it happens again that you would not be eligible for additonal funding. Sounds as if there is no individual accountability. Where of the stories of people waking up moving on and building a life for themselves as others in disasters have to do. I would venture to say that many of the folks living situation was at least alittle better than it was before.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  24. Nick

    I live in Meraux (12 miles outside the New Orleans area) an area that was devastated by Katrina, thanks to all of you who really express concern, that alone means a lot to us. I would love to take the time to thank Anderson Cooper for his dedication to this area and his reporting accuracy. Most reporters report and move on, I truly think he as connected with this city.

    Thanks for being here and reporting the truth Anderson
    Meraux La.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  25. Michaela

    I live in New Orleans and lived through Katrina. The Road Home program is both a joke and an insult to us here. Also, the program is extremely difficult to navigate through, even for educated people, and even more so when you consider the average person here has less than an 8th grade education. I think that so long as the person can show that they spent all of the money on home repairs then they would not be required to return any of it. You can't get blood from a stone.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  26. Kim Spiker

    The most impoverished sections of N.O. were hit by Katrina, but so were very upscaled residential areas where the homes were 200K+. Also, there was another hurricane one month later by the name of Rita, which did as much damage as Katrina, to a wider area than N.O. These people also qualified for Road Home, and bless their hearts, are having as much or more problems than the people in N.O. The problem with Road Home is the fraud involved. People who have gotten money for homes and have not repaired them but rent them out without ever repairing them. Spending money on new cars, vacations, big screens, etc. Those people who have had inches and inches of water inudating their homes have yet to collect from Road Home. Why? Because the monies were given to people who didn't even live in an area that was damaged! Fraud Fraud Fraud! And beleive me, not all people who collected Road Home are frauds or have committed fraud. But the high number of people who have collected with no actual rights to the money are why the majority of individuals that should qualify have NOT collected from Road Home yet. They need to look at the individuals who did not live in areas that were the hardest hit, or were flooded, to see which ones of those individuals received monies that they never should have gotten.

    April 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  27. John Montegut

    Just to set the record straight, even with the origianl amount of the Road Home Grant I was still out about $$10,000 based on the high cost of repairing 3-5 months after Katrina after estimated damages and I repeat low estaimted damages of $82,000 not the $150,000, flood insurance paid $62,000 leaving a balance of $20,000 which Road home paid, now with their mistakes they want $13,000 back.
    Under the Federal Grant Prorgram actual costs are allowed over estimated costs with third party documenatation, up until now ICF does not accept actual costs according to their contract which is against Federal guidelines. I still have another $10,000 total of repairs not covered under under Road home or insurance which is nearing completion.

    Those few who say pay up please send donations, well just a thought.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  28. J Miller

    This is no different from any insurance plan one can purchase. The replacement cost is just that, a replacement cost. I would image their is a way to readdress the cost estimate that would fairly value the remodel/rebuilt. The major point that is missed in all the heartfelt human issue, is that we as a nation cannot afford to continue to rebuilt areas in that type of hazadous geographical area. I lived in New Orleans and I know first hand that most do not have insurance (because no one will take the risk) and most homeowners EXPECT the government to give them monies anyway. This is a wakeup call to America that coastal flood areas are too expensive to take tax payer risk with. If people wish to live there, then it is at their own risk. The amount of money spent in the last 25 years rebuilding Dolphin Island Alabama would bail out Social Security for another six years. Peolpe should only be compensated for what they insure. I do not like paying to rebuild sand bars and flood zones.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  29. Mark

    I have heard many stories over the years since Katrina. Overall, the whole thing sounds as if there are multiple scams going on in all directions. But the bottom line is that the most helpless always suffer.

    But NO (and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) ought to learn from The Netherlands or tne next huricane will KO what is left of NO.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  30. Terry

    Hello! Does anyone think that New Orleans was the only town to be destroyed. What about the people in Mississippi that lost there homes. All you hear about is NOLA, NOLA, NOLA. I do business all along the Miss. Gulf Coast and that place will never be the same. I'm sorry for the lost to La, but Ms was just as destroyed but I guess if your a party town you'll get all the press. I don't think the people should have to pay back money that was not their fault. Also we people in Alabama took one heck of a beating from Katrina also.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  31. Tom

    This is just another example of why goverments run by corrupt politicians do not work. If the human race is to survive, we must find another method to create society. Unfortunatley only a major world-wide disaster will be able to enact such drastic change. (Where is an astreroid when you need one !)

    April 29, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  32. Bev

    As desperate as the Katrina victims were when they accepted the grants, I would never have taken the grant if I had not been allowed to review any paperwork. I would not have signed anything without first reading it carefully and understanding what I was signing. However, because the people who accepted these grants were already having a hard time financially, I believe it is the responsibility of ICF and the state govt to suck up their mistake they made and not be billing these people for the mistake they made. These people should not have to repay when they were not the ones making the mistake and a big mistake that was highly costly at that. We lived in New Orleans 4 years and we understand that there alot of people who are hardworking and good people who just dont have much and needed every bit of the help they could get and still need help. However, there are alot of people who are crooked and commit fraud whenever a disaster occurs and abuse the system taking money away from those who truly deserve it.

    Some people mentioned in this blog that they pay insurance companies for protection in situations like a bad hurricane hitting and damaging their home. What many people do not seem to realize is that people should never rely on insurance companies to pay up when a catastrophe occurs. My entire family was hit by Katrina on the Ms. Coast and had severe damage to their homes, but the insurance companies severely underpaid my family what they deserved to get according to their contracts with the insurance company. They were not the only ones who had this problem; the majority of people living in MS and LA were having this same exact problem with the insurance companies. What people are learning now is that the insurance companies are not only doing this to Katrina victims and other hurricane victims in Florida, Alabama and other states but they are doing this to California fire victims, Earthquake victims, and tornado victims. My family members paid their premiums for decades on time and in full and when it came to needing their insurance to pay for the repairs needed on their homes, the insurance companies paid only what they wanted to pay and most of the time it was not what was promised on the contracts. So to those out there who lose their homes to fire, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc do not believe that you will get the total amount of money stated on your insurance contract because the insurance company will certainly cheat you as much as possible and will not get much, if any, money to make the necessary repairs on your home. Many of my family members had to take out second mortgages to pay the repairs needed on their homes. Most people could not afford to take out second mortgages to get their homes back to normal. The insurance companies are so crooked that if you do have damage to your home and need repairs you wont get the amount of money you need to repair your home back to the state it was before the damage. Two of these households in my family were not flooded either and the insurance companies still refused to give them what they were supposed to. This is why I pray that my house never needs repairs due to fire or any natural disaster because I do not trust the insurance companies to pay up when it is time. The next President of the U.S. who is elected to office needs to enact a law that forces insurance companies to pay according to what is stated on the contracts.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  33. Gale

    I have to say this is one more sad situation, however, who would sign a paper that important without reading it. If someone told me I couldn't see the paper I was signing then I would go to someone else within that organization. If that paper said I had to repay overpayments then that's the law. Then again if it is a grant you don't repay a grant. Seems to me the contractor is at fault and should pay the overages. I do have to agree that there are many of these who I agree are victims have taken great advantage of the situation. As someone who lives in Houston and helped when this tragedy happened I see it here all the time. To be honest I wish some of them would go back because they have become a problem to us because of their behavior only. Not because they are someone in need but because of the things happening all the time and we read once again it is someone from Katrina. I do hope and pray all the honest, hard working people of New Orleans get all the help they need and deserve, but the ones who signed a contract without reading, well this is what happens.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  34. emtee

    Usually I don't post comments...but this kind of situation just really irriates me! ICF is clearly liable in this instance and should be held accountable. It's just like our backwards government to make vicitms who do not have the money attempt to pay. What will happen is these people's credit will be adversely affected and worse their pay eventually garnished for something that was not their fault to begin with??? This is the kind crap that perpetuates poverty and homelessness in our nation. I'm simply outdone by the stupidity and inconsiderate nature of our government.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  35. RB

    Why hasn't anyone from ICF gone to jail yet?! The country really needs to dig into how crooked these leeches are.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  36. Scott Grayban

    It never fails to amaze me how our government can find money to spend to kill people in other countries but can't find the money to help our own people.

    Simply pathetic and I hope that every law maker and president sleeps with nightmare's knowing that they are the ones causing American's to suffer more then what they should have too.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  37. Northman

    Comments like this one:
    "What’s the big deal? Money that was paid out erroneously under the auspices of the state, is now being asked to be repaid. I call that fiscal accountability. If a family found out they were receiving $150,000 beyond what would be reasonable, don’t you think they would notice? This is just sensationalist reporting."
    might be valid if the government was equally vigilant in recovering money billed inappropriately by KBR in Iraq. Hundred-dollar cases of soda and other similar overcharges resulted in the waste of many times the paltry two million dollars they are trying to recover here. If the government exhibited the Christian values supposedly espoused by its leader, the displaced people in New Orleans would have long ago been back in their homes. If that same government had applied a little preventive action (proper maintenance of the levees) instead of spending incomprehensible sums on unnecessarily overblown military budgets, they might never have been displaced at all.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  38. Tami

    What is appalling to me is that after all this time the people of New Orleans seem to think that we as a country still owe them. They were ordered from the city. Lots choose to stay. Why would we help them when the victims of other hurricanes and tornados and earthquakes all across the country have not gotten a cent of help to rebuild there towns. Take Homestead. After Andrew hit it was left devasted. Did they get money to rebuild? Maybe but nowhere near the amount that New Orleans did. Also after so much time why have these people not gone and gotten jobs? Why must I pay taxes and work my butt off to make ends meet for my family while I have to pay for them to sit on their butts.

    That to me is appalling.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  39. Belijohnne Pugh

    I think It's wrong to ask the residents for money back. Why should the residents pay for mistakes that a so called professional organization made; after all, the residents did not hire the (ICF) and they had no way of knowing or understanding what should or should not be put on an estimate. And another thing, desperate people will sign anything. Those People were trying to get their lives back to normal. They thought those agencies were acting in their best interest. I don't think any money is owed, some one is trying to fill their pockets at the expense of unlearned and hurting people. The inspectors were hired by the state or goverment officials; the katrina victims did not hire those "professional Inspectors" so why are they being targeted as if they did something wrong? They should leave those people alone and suck up the lost. And if they cannot suck up the lost, charge the inspectors and the agencies responsible for causing the overfpayment. No Katrina victim wrote any estimates. Why are they being charged?

    April 29, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  40. CK

    The grant was to repair damages from Katrina. If the homeowner was mistakenly given more money than he was justly due, he should pay it back. The fact that he spent it, on whatever he spent it on, doesn't absolve him of that responsibility. If your employer overpaid you, or sent you two paychecks – or if the IRS mistakenly refunded more than you were entitled to – would it be any different? Katrina was truly a disaster – but it is public tax dollars that are being used to remedy the situation, and if there is money that can be reclaimed it should be.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  41. andy

    Is there a charity where people can make donations toward that debt. If not there should be. The families should not have to suffer again because the govt. made mistakes.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  42. Nichole

    I recommend that everyone who received such a "bill" from the state hire a lawyer. If the state funds were relied upon to make the repairs for which the money was intended, and the homeowner relied in the funds to his detriment (i.e. he put the money into the repairs of his Katrina-damaged home and cannot repay it), there is a good chance that the homeowner will not have to repay.

    It's a shame that the homeowners will have to resort to this. Seek out an attorney who may be willing to represent the effected group pro bono.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:34 pm |
  43. Fed up with the Fed

    This notion that people should not build in NO seems a bit hasty. First off, to prohibit habitation just because of weather is ridiculous. I mean, are we going to tell people in Kansas that they can't live there because there are too many tornadoes? You people in Virginia – get out of there now!! Second, why is (or rather, was) there so much settlement in an area below sea level? Because our gov't built levees that allowed people to feel safe there. If there were no levees, there would be no New Orleans, it's a bit difficult to have Mardi Gras under water. I know, Mardi Gras for fish and frogs, it'll be a big hit. Third, I'm a little confused how the Netherlands has managed to keep the sea out for centuries while we struggle, is the water thinner over here or do they just make better dirt?

    The bottom line is that our country, the government AND the people, have our collective priorities skewed. Instead of trying to solve problems and overcome adversity as we did in the first 175 years, we now spend most of our time hunting down someone that is to blame for some injustice to some person or people, or listening to some member of the media telling us who to blame. Can anyone quantify how much time and money we waste on witch hunts and issues that will not change anything for anyone? How can anyone think that things are running right when we spend millions trying to figure out who's using steroids but we can't house all of our citizens?

    April 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  44. Timothy

    I live near Charleston, SC. Charleston got thrashed in '89 by Hurricane Hugo. Ya know what you heard 7am the next morning? Chainsaws and ppl yelling cuz we werent waiting for anyone to help us...we were helping ourselves and our neighbors. The saddest part was the piles of debris that were still sitting waiting to be picked up by the towns and counties a year later. These ppl need to stop their sniveling, wipe their, noses and fix their own problems. The government isnt your mommy and you arent 5 years old. Shut up about it. If anything NOLA should be razed and forgotten about. You live on a river delta and then you have the gall to whine when it floods...get over it!

    April 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  45. Scott

    Typical beuracratic thnking....ratherthan just write off the amount these people owe the state, the State is going to investigate the contarctor they hired and appoint someone to review the cases....in the end they will end up spending more taxpayer dollars than they doled out to begin with.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  46. Roxanne

    This story almost left me speechless. Speechless except for a few shocked thoughts like,"How can this possibly be happening?" ; "Are you *!@$*!@ SERIOUS!?" and "Why are the victims of Hurricane Katrina STILL continue to be victims of other sources YEARS later?!" I got to drive through New Orleans last month and I teared up thinking about what the residents have been through for the past few years when I saw the place. As I stood outside the gate of where Six Flags amusement park used to entertain families, it was so beyond me that this place and it's people have suffered so much and weren't helped anywhere near as much as they deserved. NOW THIS?! In my opinion, the homeowners didn't make the mistake of overestimating. Either the contractor and/or the state and government need to shell out for that mistake, especially being that homeowners were underpaid for damages to their homes anyhow. That's my opinion for now; hopefully better news regarding the situation will come out for the sake of those residents....still shaking my head...

    April 29, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  47. Mary

    ICF should pay back the money instead of a fine. The state wants both the fine and money. The State has added to the suffering of the very citizens they are responsible for and account to...

    April 29, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  48. Talea

    Oh my GOD are you serious? You mean to tell me that we can intrude into other countries , destroy the lands then turn around and pay to repair it. But our own country is destroyed by mother nature and we can not repair our own country. Boy, what is really going on... This makes us as a country who work so hard to get so little back think ,
    "Are we really living in the last days"...

    April 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  49. Keith

    Responding to LB –

    No, we want a democrat in charge of the health care system.

    Screwing the little guy (actually, anyone but the really big guys) in the republican credo. I guess they felt that the Katrina victims hadnt suffered enough.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  50. Jamye

    How could he have signed it if he wasn't allowed to see the paperwork? There must have been something on whatever he signed that alluded to further documentation.
    It's messed up, but how can you not be allowed to see paperwork for a contract agreement you sign? That doesn't make any sense at all.
    He should have done his research first before he signed, or realized something was shady when he was told he couldn't see his own paperwork, or the company is at fault for misrepresenting information.
    That's a tough case.

    April 29, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
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