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Trip to the Gulf Coast

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (from left), talks with Gov. Bobby Jindal, from the State of Louisiana, and Victor Ukpolo, vice-chancellor from Southern University in New Orleans. Photo USCG
Last week, I joined Secretary Donovan of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Craig Fugate, the President’s new nominee to be FEMA Administrator, on a two-day trip to the Gulf Coast. Our goal was to get a firsthand look at the recovery efforts underway since Katrina and Rita, meet with state and local leaders, and identify outstanding issues.

What we saw on our trip were very clear signs of progress and a clear determination by the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild and recover from these terrible storms. But we also saw too many communities still in disrepair, too many construction projects either incomplete or not yet started, and too many people still struggling to reclaim their lives.

We spoke with community leaders, first responders, school teachers, and ordinary citizens to get their perspective. We also took a bus and helicopter tour of New Orleans and a helicopter tour of the Mississippi coast to get a better sense of the remaining challenges.

While in New Orleans, I made several announcements that are designed to cut through some of the red tape that for too long has stalled the completion of a number of important projects, including the reconstruction of two police stations and a fire station.

FEMA will provide replacement funding to rebuild these facilities, as well as an additional $12 million to repair a water treatment plant in St. Bernard parish. It will also provide significant funding to Benjamin Franklin High School, one of our nation’s best high schools that suffered significant damage from Katrina.

To ensure that future public assistance requests aren’t bogged down in endless disputes and paperwork, I also announced the creation of two new teams consisting of FEMA and state representatives that will work together to expedite these requests and make decisions.

Finally, FEMA will be extending relocation assistance for people displaced by Katrina and Rita to help them find permanent housing solutions. And it has extended the deadline for hazard mitigation funding for Mississippi, which will give people more time to file their applications and ultimately build more resilient homes and communities.

All of these actions will help the people of the Gulf Coast continue their recovery. We stand with them, and we will continue to support them.

Janet Napolitano
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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