Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Road to Collections

"They want people to pay for their incompetence and their mistakes. What they need to be is aggressive about finding the underpayments," he said. "People relied, to their detriment, on their expertise and rebuilt their houses, and now they want to squeeze this money back out of them."
Frank Silvestri, co-chairman of the Citizens' Road Home Action Team

I heard ICF wants some Road Home money back.

First I got screwed by the Corps of Engineers. They built a sub par levee wall and it collapsed and ruined what I thought was a pretty good life. Ever since then I have been putting up with all kinds of bullshit from local government, the media, people in the area who weren’t flooded, and a host of other uninformed and stupid people. We have been through it all to get to this point. ICF is the company that our incompetent ex governor selected to manage the Road Home program that is designed to help people rebuild or settle their lives in other places after Katrina and Rita. I am pretty sure she selected ICF and paid them a incredible amount of money because the company wasn’t from the state so they could be heartless bastards and make the process so complicated that many people wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle and the state could keep that money. They also made the process almost impossible to cheat. They wanted deeds, birth certificates, DNA samples, photos, and anything else they could ask for to disqualify you for eligibility. This company had no problem telling a person whose house was completely washed away from water that there were getting nothing. After awhile the citizens got angry and stories of the evil company started coming up everywhere. In their effort to keep the politicians from doing what they should have done in the first place and hold them accountable, they started speeding up the process. Now they claim that because the process was accelerated they paid thousands of people an average of 35,000 too much and they want to collect this money back.

I know allot of people who have went through the Road Home process. I don't know anyone who got the maximum amount. First of all, none of us understood the process to begin with. The decision on what we got was all on ICF. I don't think the folks in Baton Rouge that selected that company understood either. They only knew you were trying to discourage everybody and that turned them on. I am comfortable with the thought that there wasn’t one person that came into that office and knowingly beat the system. All applicants did was submit their paperwork and wait. Some people had to go back dozens of times with more documentation. My grandmother passed away during the storm. The house she owned was on the same lot as my parents' house. My parents and my aunt damn near had to bring her remains into the office before they would even start the process on their application. Secondly, I am one of the people who believe that everybody should have gotten the maximum anyway. That would have been the right thing to do. This is poetic justice to me. It’s 2008 and I still can’t believe how many people act like this wasn't a government made disaster. All of this could have been avoided by adding up all the destroyed homes and dividing the money evenly to the homeowners. If you had other funds to rebuild or relocate beyond that then so be it. I have said it before and I will say it again, if I sit here and make a list of everything, and everybody I lost during this foolishness, not only should we get the maximum Road Home payout but our debt should be cleared and our kids should be allowed to go to any college for free. Maybe then it would be even.

A strange thing happens when you lose all your possessions. Whatever money you get to rebuild is actually money you need. There’s no saving for a rainy day. This is the rainy day. I can guarantee you that most of that money is spent. These people commenting on some of these websites make me sick accusing someone of trying to get over. Yes, I bought a big television with some of my Road Home money because I lost a big television when that raggedy flood wall broke. We are not getting over. We are getting whole again. If a man had a Cadillac in his driveway that he only drove on Sundays and it got flooded during Katrina then let him buy another one as long as his house is finished. If a family in Lower Plaquemines purchased a new shrimp boat with their money then call me for the first boil. I would hate to think that the same government that flooded me out is going to allow this corporate monster to come in and destroy my credit because of a mistake that I had nothing to do with. ICF needs to take the lost out of the millions they already pimped out of the state.

Contrary to what some people may think, my disgust for this process is not just about the Lower Ninth Ward, or New Orleans East. It's not all about the black community either. There is a group of educated but uninformed people that live around here who have pre conceived notions of what is really going on with this recovery. If you think this is about some poor people looking for a handout, think about it like this. The 900 million dollars ICF has received probably could have rebuilt every public building in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish. This whole thing has been a joke for everyone and if everyone would see it that way it wouldn't keep happening. I have a good idea. Today I am heading to the Crawfish Festival in St. Bernard Parish. Why don’t someone from ICF go down there to make that speech to the crowd and lets see what happens. I am sure the folks will give them a warm Chalmette reception right before they are dipped into a big pot of crawfish water.

1 comment:

mominem said...

I got nothing, contested their obvious error, got no answer. I only got occasional phone calls from unknowledgable untrained people, who never responded to my very clear question.

I expect a letter any day now wanting me to pay for their wasted staff time.