Frustrated Homeowner Still Awaiting Katrina Check - - The News for South Mississippi

Frustrated Homeowner Still Awaiting Katrina Check

"It's a very old, quiet neighborhood," said Bob Strickland, showing a visitor his home on Balboa Street in Biloxi.

But like so many Biloxi neighborhoods, Katrina put Strickland's underwater. His home near Back Bay took five and a half feet of storm surge.

"We not only swam out of the house, but we had to crawl through the tree and swim across the street. And this is in the middle of the storm," he said, recalling that memorable morning.

"This is where we're standing right now," Strickland said, pointing to a picture of a flood damaged kitchen.

Pictures tell the story of the downed trees and flooded home, courtesy of Katrina, but they don't reflect the frustration that's been festering since late April.

That's when Strickland applied for a Katrina homeowner grants.

"I applied April 25th and they kept saying, 'Well, the money is going to be within a month'. And I kept doing things on the house. Well, every time they finished, these people want to be paid. The money hasn't shown up, so I have to go borrow money," he explained.

Like many homeowners, Strickland counted on the grant money when planning his home repair budget, even though he understands it's essentially free money.

"We didn't ask for it, they offered it to us. That's kind of like offering candy to a kid and then not giving it to him. The kid didn't ask for the candy. But when you offer it to him, you should give it to him."

Strickland is by no means alone in his growing frustrations. As of mid September, the governor's Katrina grant program had issued just 75 checks out of 17,000 applications. That's less than one half of one percent.

Senator Trent Lott said recently he was "sad and disappointed" over the delays in getting the grant checks to the people, calling the process an "interminable, pathetic bureaucracy."

"I think the governor, he's taken responsibility, now I just wish he'd take some action and come down here and kick somebody's butt and say, 'This is unacceptable,'" said Strickland.

By Steve Phillips

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