State may have to repay tens of millions in Road Home money - - The News for South Mississippi

State may have to repay tens of millions in Road Home money


NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A new report from the legislative auditor could mean the state will have to pay back tens of millions of dollars in post-Katrina rebuilding money that can't be properly accounted for.

But the State Office of Community Development says it's too soon to write it off.

For Bernice Crump of Pontchartrain Park, it's simple.

"I'm glad to be back home," Crump said. "Happy to be back home."

Crump's home is still a work in progress, and she said getting to where she is now was no small task.

"I sent them the paperwork," she said. "And I don't understand why they keep sending out the same thing."

Crump says the state has asked her three times for proof that she's back home, and a new legislative audit raises serious questions about management in the way the state handled tens of millions of dollars in federal funds.

"There isn't proper documentation," assistant auditor Beth Davis said. "The state may demand repayment."

"I'm not surprised," Crump said. "The program hasn't been run properly."

The new audit says the state could owe the feds as much as $172 million.

"Now the state is sending letters asking people to return the money that they did get, but many didn't get the money to start," said Gretchen Bradford, president of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association.

The legislative auditor says it could not give a clean bill of health to the administration of the homeowners assistance program. The audit says 2,035 homeowners were not entitled to the $98.2 million in grant money they received, while others who should have gotten money got nothing.

"I think it's unfair," said Bradford. "The state got so much money - everyone should have been helped."

Though Crump said her return wouldn't have been possible without Road Home, she says the process was so difficult that it took a toll on many of her neighbors - especially the older ones.

For it's part, the state Office of Community Development responded to the audit saying that it "doesn't agree with the finding, or the amount of questioned costs, since it has a grant recovery process in place."

"I don't think it should have been so much red tape," Crump said.

But it was red tape that allowed her to come back home, and for that, Crump is grateful.

"I'm invested in this city, I'm not living anywhere else, and I will be buried in New Orleans," she said.

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