La.: Hurricanes did $100B in Damage; State Short $34B to Cover Losses

August 28, 2007

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were a $100 billion blow to Louisiana buildings and infrastructure, and federal aid and insurance payments fall about $34 billion short of making up for the losses, a state agency says.

The $100 billion estimate, in a Louisiana Recovery Authority report, includes levees, public buildings and infrastructure, businesses, houses and personal property lost or damaged in the 2005 hurricanes. Of that, insurance has covered $40 billion and federal aid $26 billion the report says.

The damage estimate was compiled using property loss estimates from various sectors, LRA spokeswoman Melissa Landry said.

Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said he is not suggesting that the U.S. government or insurers write a $34 billion check. But he said people should not be surprised if Louisiana continues to ask Congress for help rebuilding, something he expects to happen over the next decade.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office noted the difficulty in assessing damages from the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, saying the exact costs may never be known but that overall they would likely “far surpass” those of the three other costliest disasters in recent memory – the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and California’s Northridge earthquake in 1994.

Since the storms, the federal government has provided more than $110 billion in grants, loans and other aid to help Gulf Coast states hit by the hurricanes. Much of that has been for short-term or emergency projects, such as debris removal, levee work and housing assistance, not long-term rebuilding.

Louisiana’s most pressing needs include federal help filling a projected $5 billion shortfall in the state-run Road Home program, which is designed to help victims rebuild or relocate, and full funding of levee work in the New Orleans area, Kopplin said.

Under federal law, FEMA says it only has to pay to bring infrastructure to pre-storm “function and capacity” – not cover wholesale replacement of buildings that may have been old or in prior need of improvements.

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