R. Reese Fuller

Feds may forgive Katrina/Rita loans

by R. Reese Fuller

Louisiana's coastal areas hardest hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 may find some relief if rules proposed Monday are approved. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is considering forgiving those disaster loans. The Associated Press reports that communities which meet certain criteria would need to apply and could avoid paying some or all of the loan, depending on whether the community has met its operating costs within the last three years.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency made available nearly $1.3 billion in loans to communities in Louisiana and Mississippi after the 2005 hurricanes devastated the region — about $1 billion more than it says it had released in community disaster loans for nearly all of the 30 years prior to the two major storms.

As of March 16, $831 million in loan funds had been drawn down. FEMA had no estimate on how much of the loaned money may be forgiven.

In 2007, Congress authorized the agency to forgive the loans under certain conditions. But the rules proposed on Monday were the first specific steps moving that process forward.
Although the loans don't come due until next fall, the AP reports only two communities have voluntarily repaid theirs with interest — Mandeville and Forrest County, Miss.