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House lawmakers visit N.O., evaluate Road Home bail out
David Hammer, Times-Picayune – August 14, 2007

In what she saw as her last chance to collect the Road Home money to rebuild her Lower 9th Ward home, Valeria Schexnayder made her way through a gaggle of officialdom and corralled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a congressional visit to the area Tuesday.

She sought to seize the attention of the highest-ranking female politician in U.S. history, just as she was about to leave the working-class neighborhood’s now-fabled wasteland. “They even told us last night that they ran out of money,” Schexnayder said, tears welling up as Pelosi hugged her and thanked her for sharing her story. “This is my last chance. My only chance.”

The lawmakers are visiting Louisiana in part to learn what needs to be done to bail out the Road Home program, which is an estimated $5 billion short of serving an estimated 150,000 eligible applicants.

The local congressman, William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, assured the distraught Schexnayder, 60, that the congressional group would announce tomorrow that Road Home “is not going to run out of money.”

Jefferson later explained in an interview that the group would be announcing that it is prepared to work to deliver whatever amount the Road Home needs, now that the state has committed $1 billion to the cause.

‘Mr. Insurance’ takes colleagues from Congress on a tour of the crime scene
Sun Herald editorial – August 15, 2007

If what has been done to homeowners after Hurricane Katrina is criminal, then Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis would easily qualify as crime scenes.

It was into those communities that Coast Congressman Gene Taylor led more than a dozen of his congressional colleagues this week, including the most powerful of them all – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, who calls Taylor “Mr. Insurance,” said that next month the House of Representatives will consider Taylor’s legislation expanding the National Flood Insurance Program into a multi-peril insurance plan for property owners who cannot obtain coverage in the private market.

That is heartening.

As was this comment from one of Pelosi’s key political lieutenants, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn: “I want you all to know that our commitment to you is as genuine as anything we’ve ever undertaken. And we will never relent.”

It will require a relentless effort in Congress to overcome the objections of some insurance companies to expanding federal coverage.

Fortunately, Pelosi understands that.

“We’re up against a mighty force,” she said of the lobbying efforts of the insurance industry. “But we have something on our side – we are right.”

See the Gavel's Katrina archive >>

On June 12th there was joint hearing with the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight, “National Flood Insurance Program: Issues Exposed by the 2005 Hurricanes.” Rep. Gene Taylor (MS-04) gave opening remarks and discussed a reported meeting between a National Flood Insurance Program official and insurance agents as well as a State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. memo on filing claims as flood versus wind damage, thus passing the costs to taxpayers:

Rep. Gene Taylor:
“In light of today’s article in the Times-Picayune, I would ask that this committee subpoena records of a September 7, 2005 meeting between the administrator of the flood program, David Maurstad, and approximately 300 insurance agents in which he outlined the National Flood Insurance Program’s attitude towards the whole wind vs. water… So on one hand the United States code gives them the responsibility to sell the policy and adjudicate the claim, and then a State Farm memo to its agents, tells them that whenever there’s wind and water, blame it all on the water.”