FEMA chief says Sandy recovery won't hurt Katrina rebuilding

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses reporters after meeting with Mayor Landrieu.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses reporters after meeting with Mayor Landrieu.

New Orleans, La. - FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate made a stop in New Orleans Tuesday to dispel concerns about the ongoing Katrina recovery and his agency's commitment to it.

Fugate said some people are wondering whether the enormity of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast U.S. will push the Katrina recovery off the federal government's radar.

"Katrina is not done and we still have work to do here," Fugate said while addressing the news media after a closed door meeting with Mayor Mitch Landrieu at City Hall.

President Barack Obama is asking the Congress for $60 billion in federal aid for New Jersey, New York and other states hit by Sandy.  Still, Fugate said the Katrina zone's recovery remains a priority for his agency.

Since Mayor Landrieu took office in May 2010, FEMA has obligated more than $341 million in new funding for city projects, and another $208 million for Sewerage and Water Board projects, according to the mayor's office.

"We have 140 to 150 project worksheets that are still out there," said Landrieu.  "This is a long and arduous process. It was the biggest disaster that was seen in many, many years."

"Some of these answers are not going to be easy, but we're not going to not talk.  And we're going to work through the challenges and get to the point where he [Landrieu] will be able to say, and the president will be able to say, we have rebuilt from Katrina," continued Fugate.

On the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac was battering the city of New Orleans and nearby communities. Fugate said FEMA is committed to the Isaac recovery as well.

"Yeah, Sandy's been a big hit, it's a big disaster.  We've have a lot of things going on, but it doesn't mean that we are not still committed to completing Katrina, as well as dealing with the other storms that have impacted this region," said Fugate as he stood next to Mayor Landrieu.

This week the mayor and some local chefs and musicians will travel to the storm region in the northeast to assist victims and share lessons learned from Katrina.

"I think we've all learned a lot together that we can apply to the northeast as well," said Landrieu.  "We're going to help gut houses and get folks back on their feet as a sign of the people of New Orleans paying it back."

Landrieu said the city has a great working relationship with FEMA.  "Proof on the ground from all of the ribbon cuttings that we've had, whether we're opening new schools, or breaking ground on police stations, or its libraries, we've opened five libraries in the past five months," he said.

The Landrieu administration said FEMA has obligated a grand total of $940 million for city projects and $500 million for Sewerage and Water Board projects since Katrina.