If Assistance Bill Survives, Miss., La. Could Receive Billions to Recover From Katrina

December 21, 2005

If the Hurricane Recovery Assistance Bill survives the U.S. Senate, Mississippi could receive a significant share of the $29 billion assistance, according to Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. The senator said he has negotiated a deal to provide funds to Gulf Coast states hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.

On Monday, the House of Representatives approved the bill, which was tied to defense spending. Wednesday morning, it was uncertain whether the recovery bill had enough votes to pass after Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, attached a measure to the legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

Democrats have long opposed any measures to open up the refuge for oil drilling. This move could delay much-needed federal financial help for Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, say some on Capitol Hill.

The bill includes $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants that, according to Cochran spokesperson Jenny Manley, will be used by Gov. Haley Barbour to provide assistance to homeowners whose homes were destroyed by the hurricane’s storm surge.

State and local law enforcement are tapped to receive $125 million. The money supports law enforcement in the Katrina-damaged areas. It also includes a provision for paying for additional officers in areas that have experienced a sudden population increase because of hurricane evacuees.

The bill includes:

* $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants to spur economic development and help homeowners without flood insurance rebuild or repair their homes.

* $4.4 billion for storm-related Defense Department expenses and facility damage.

* $2.9 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue storm and flood repairs, begin reconstructing levees and accelerate studies on improving Gulf Coast flood protection.

* $2.8 billion to repair damaged roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.

* $1.6 billion for education, including $645 million for schools that took in students, $750 million for schools affected by the hurricanes and $200 million for higher education.

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