WASHINGTON – Nearly $2 billion in federal disaster aid for Katrina evacuees is sitting unclaimed more than six months after lawmakers approved the emergency funding.
Congress approved a $2 billion block grant program in September for displaced Gulf Coast families – regardless of income – to help them get back on their feet after the Aug. 29 storm.
But only 11 states have made requests totaling $25.5 million in aid so far, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Several states said they didn’t want the bureaucratic hassle, or weren’t certain if displaced families qualified for aid under the program.
“The funds are there, and it’s deeply troubling they’re not being used,” said Mark Greenberg, executive director of the Task Force on Poverty at the Center for American Progress.
It’s unclear how many displaced families are missing out on the funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Several states say they are opting to provide assistance out of their own pockets, while in other cases families with higher incomes who are eligible aren’t seeking the aid.
According to HHS, about 420,000 families were displaced by the Gulf Coast hurricanes. About 50,000 were low-income families who generally aren’t eligible because they were already receiving TANF aid before Katrina hit.