table of contents

1.       The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Hurricane evacuees take pleas to capital,” February 9, 2006  3

2.       The Washington Post, “Katrina's Vietnamese Victims; Falls Church Area Agency Aids Gulf Coast Immigrants,” February 9, 2006  5

3.       Atlanta Journal and Constitution, “Katrina evacuees check out,” February 8, 2006, page 7  9

4.       Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, “IMPLEMENTING OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT,” February 2, 2006  11

5.       THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “EDUCATION NOTES,” February 6, 2006, (Part One) 27

6.       THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “EDUCATION NOTES,” February 6, 2006, (Part Two) 30

7.       The Houston Chronicle, “School grants for evacuees may fall short of promises; Districts in 49 states have asked for their slice of a $645 million pie,” February 4, 2006  33

8.       Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, “IMPLEMENTING OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT,” February 2, 2006  35

9.       US Fed News, “REP. MEEK INVITES KATRINA EVACUEE TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS,” January 27, 2006  48

10.     THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “HUD chief vows evacuee aid In Houston, concern grows over crime, housing subsidies,” January 20, 2006  49

11.     CNN, “Pakistanis Protest U.S. Air Strike; Emir of Kuwait Dies,” January 15, 2006  51

12.     Times-Picayune (New Orleans), “Hotels evicting Katrina evacuees; FEMA deadline snag spurs overbookings,” January 11, 2006  70

13.     Los Angeles Times, “The Price of Katrina Hospitality; States with evacuees try to add up the costs, but variables persist: How many will stay? Who? 'We never envisioned' this, a Texas official says,” January 1, 2006  73

14.     The Salt Lake Tribune, “A LOOK BACK AT THE YEAR,” December 29, 2005  76

15.     THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “Evacuees facing holidays in hotels 24,000 in Texas are still seeking housing as FEMA efforts slow,” December 22, 2005  83

16.     Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat (Oklahoma), “Judge orders one-month extension of FEMA hotel program for K,” December 19, 2005  86

17.     The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Holidays further isolate Katrina evacuees; Their feelings of loss can be overwhelming,” December 17, 2005  88

18.     FDCH Political Transcripts, “U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BOB NEY (R-OH) HOLDS HEARING ON HOUSING NEEDS AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA,” December 14, 2005  90

19.     Times-Picayune (New Orleans), “FEMA loses ruling on hotel deadline; Order lets evacuees stay until Feb. 7,” December 13, 2005  117

 


 

 


 


1.    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Hurricane evacuees take pleas to capital,” February 9, 2006

 

1 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

February 9, 2006 Thursday 

Main Edition

 

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 5B

 

LENGTH: 554 words

 

HEADLINE: Hurricane evacuees take pleas to capital

 

BYLINE: BOB DART

 

BODY:

Washington --- Still displaced by Hurricane Katrina, homesick folks from New Orleans adapted the lyrics of a Southern civil rights anthem Wednesday as they marched across Capitol Hill.

"Ain't gonna let no FEMA turn us around, turn us around, turn us around. Ain't gonna let no FEMA turn us around," they sang. "Gonna keep on a'walking. Gonna keep on a'walking on home."

By the busload, they came from cities across the Southeast and Texas --- including metro Atlanta --- where they ended up after the historic storm destroyed their neighborhoods.

During their two-day stay in the nation's capital, the Katrina survivors met with members of Congress and the Bush administration and held a candlelight vigil across from the White House.

"Our purpose is to let our voices be heard," said Dorothy Stukes, president of the Katrina Survivors Association of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. "Everybody is forgetting about Katrina. We want enough money so we can go home to fair and equitable housing. We're not asking for a handout. These are our tax dollars we're talking about, that we have paid into the system."

Elaine Peters came from Atlanta, where she uses a $750 monthly allotment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rent a one-bedroom apartment. She hopes to begin work as a registered nurse in March, but only for one year.

"I'm willing to stay and work for one year, but I want to return desperately," she said. "I was born in New Orleans and lived there all my life. The home my mother raised us in was completely destroyed. I want to help rebuild."

Her 89-year-old mother, Fanny Mae Randolph, now lives with Peters' sister in Hampton. That's where Peters, 54, also landed a couple of weeks after helping 34 patients evacuate from a New Orleans nursing home amid the chaos of Katrina.

"We left in a hail of gunfire," she said. "They were looting, looking for narcotics."

After "staying awake for 10 days" helping care for the patients, who eventually reached facilities in northern Louisiana, she said, "I paid $500 one way for a Delta flight" from Shreveport, La., to Atlanta. Her first FEMA check arrived in late December, nearly four months later, allowing her to rent her own place, she said.

Along with hundreds of others who have similar stories, she came to Washington for an ACORN-sponsored Rally for Rebuilding, seeking more federal help so she and her mother can move back to New Orleans.

ACORN, which describes itself as "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities," has marked hundreds of deserted and damaged houses in the largely African-American, low-income Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, seeking to save them from being bulldozed.

President Bush "should keep his promise to provide the funds and a plan that will allow us to return and rebuild our home and communities," said Stukes, who has lived in Houston since the storm. Marching on Wednesday, she disavowed the controversial contention of Mayor Ray Nagin that New Orleans should remain "a chocolate city."

"We've always been a gumbo city," she said. "Everybody loved each other. We were neighborly people. That's why I want to go back home. It's where I was raised and where I want my grandchildren to be raised."

 

GRAPHIC: Photo: T.J. KIRKPATRICK / Cox NewspapersHurricane Katrina evacuees seeking more federal funds to help them rebuild their New Orleans neighborhoods gather Wednesday on the streets of Washington. The two-day Rally for Rebuilding brought together hundreds of storm survivors.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 9, 2006


 



2.    The Washington Post, “Katrina's Vietnamese Victims; Falls Church Area Agency Aids Gulf Coast Immigrants,” February 9, 2006

5 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2006 The Washington Post

The Washington Post

 

February 9, 2006 Thursday 

Final Edition

 

SECTION: Anne Arundel Extra; T04

 

LENGTH: 1754 words

 

HEADLINE: Katrina's Vietnamese Victims;

Falls Church Area Agency Aids Gulf Coast Immigrants

 

BYLINE: Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post Staff Writer

 

DATELINE: BURAS, La.

 

BODY:

Fisherman Ky Le climbed out of his truck, hoisting his 3-year-old son, and pointed to a mass of splintered wreckage on a muddy lot.

 "That my house," said Le, 42, in his fragmentary English. Then he laughed. 

 It was easier than crying.

 All that remained of the family's mobile home was this slab of linoleum, set on a wheeled hunk of rusting metal and covered with overturned appliances, dishes, clothing and other items. A backpack that belonged to the couple's oldest son lay near his math workbook. 

 In the moist, salty wind, shards of a nearby metal shed swayed and creaked as Le's wife, Loan, 39, picked through the rubble, looking for documents that would prove the family had flood insurance to cover the ruin caused by Hurricane Katrina. 

 This was Plaquemines Parish, a ghostly finger of marshy land poking into the Gulf of Mexico and bisected by the Mississippi River, where life and property were swept away when Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras on Aug. 29.   

  The couple and their three children lost their home and car. Miraculously, Ky's shrimp boat sustained only relatively minor damage. After several months of taking shelter with other homeless Vietnamese fishermen and their families at a Buddhist temple 50 miles up the road, the family has settled in a rented mobile home near the temple while they untangle their affairs.

 The plight of the Le family, and thousands of other Vietnamese immigrants living along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, has become the focus of a Falls Church area nonprofit, Boat People SOS. 

  In December, the 25-year-old organization, which works with Vietnamese immigrants through a network of offices nationwide, received a $4.5 million federal grant to seek out and work with the neediest Hurricane Katrina victims, helping them to rebuild their lives financially and emotionally over the next 22 months.

 Along with three other nonprofits based in the Washington area  --  Catholic Charities USA of Alexandria, Volunteers of America of Alexandria and the National Disability Rights Network of Northeast Washington  --  Boat People SOS is part of a consortium of 10 organizations nationwide awarded a total of $66 million to assist 300,000 struggling Katrina victims.

 Many are poor, elderly or disabled, said Warren Harrity, executive director of Katrina Aid Today, the consortium's parent organization based in Northwest Washington. Some are single parents, while others, like those in the Vietnamese communities that Boat People is working with, speak limited English.

 "There are a lot of folks who are just not able to access the world of resources out there," Harrity said.

 The contract was awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency  to the United Methodist Committee on Relief,  the disaster-relief and development arm of the United Methodist Church, using funds donated by foreign governments. The Methodist relief committee,  in turn, contracted with the 10 nonprofits to carry out the work, and it will manage the grant and monitor the groups' progress. The committee program within which these agencies work is Katrina Aid Today. 

 Last week, Volunteers of America launched a $6 million case-management program that will use 60 professionals and 240 trained volunteers to work with about 20,000 people  --  many of them already struggling with disability, age, raising children on a limited income or addiction.

 "A lot of people, at least the ones we talk to . . . were pretty fragile anyway," said Margaret Ratcliff, vice president of programs for Volunteers of America.

 The National Disability Rights Network will focus on 8,000 disabled Katrina victims, including those with physical handicaps, mental illnesses and addiction problems, primarily in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, said spokeswoman Kaaryn Sanon.

 Catholic Charities USA will receive $12 million, which will help fund 125 paid and 250 volunteer case managers who are being brought in to work with Katrina victims in Catholic Charities offices in 13 states, said the Rev. Larry Snyder, the organization's chief executive. 

  A combination of therapist, nagging mother, networker and advocate, a case manager works one-on-one with clients and with other case managers, drawing up "recovery plans" and then assisting clients with finding housing, jobs and services they need.

 "Our aim is to help the folks to achieve a level of self-sufficiency," Harrity said.

 Boat People SOS's task is one of the more challenging: to work with insular,  often isolated, Vietnamese communities. An estimated 50,000 Vietnamese live along the Gulf Coast, including "boat people" who settled in the area after fleeing Southeast Asia  in the 1970s and '80s.

 The federal grant, worth about $4.5 million to Boat People, is by far the largest ever received by the organization, which brought in $2.1 million in federal grants in 2004. The group is in the process of hiring 19 case managers to work with Katrina victims through new branch offices in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, said Executive Director Nguyen Dinh Thang. 

  Many of Boat People's target clients are fishermen, small-business people or blue-collar workers who speak little or no English and, until now, have had relatively little contact with local or federal governments.

 Boat People SOS was founded in California in 1981. It has evolved from an organization that rescued thousands of people in small vessels on the ocean who were fleeing Vietnam in the wake of the communist takeover, to one that offers a variety of services to Vietnamese immigrants nationwide. 

  Funded mostly by government contracts and grants, it now has 17 offices around the country, including three in the Washington area: in Prince George's County, in the District and, its headquarters, in a Leesburg Pike (Route 7) office building just north of Baileys Crossroads. 

 It draws its work almost exclusively from government agencies, such as those of Fairfax County and the U.S. government, including the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and the departments of Labor, Education and the Treasury. 

  Boat People offers cancer screenings and translation services, educates nail-salon employees on hazardous materials, sponsors after-school tutoring and teen abstinence education, and helps Vietnamese immigrants become U.S. citizens, among other services. 

 In Louisiana, the epicenter of its current efforts, is a small Buddhist temple in Orleans Parish, just over the border from Plaquemines. The area is home to thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who earn their livings plying the waters of the Gulf. 

 Katrina destroyed many of their homes and boats, and about 50 of them are now living at Bo De Temple while they await FEMA trailers or repairs to their homes. They live in the temple's fellowship hall and education center, sleeping on mattresses jammed into small classrooms and cooking in the center's kitchen. They have fashioned curtains out of aluminum foil and brown paper.

 Some, uncomfortable with the crowded conditions, have retreated to tents on the muddy grounds. One 81-year-old man lives in his car, which he has outfitted with a sleeping bag and a television balanced on the rear seat.

 The presence of the evacuees has put on hold the temple's plan to use the center, which was recently completed at a cost of $200,000, to offer English classes to adults and Vietnamese classes to children. The added expense has also strained the small temple's finances.

 "It's very difficult for us in this situation," said the Rev. Thich-Thong Duc, the Buddhist monk who runs Bo De. Duc moved to the United States from Vietnam seven years ago. "But we are happy to help people." 

 Among Boat People's tasks is to help the Vietnamese negotiate their way through the formidable Katrina-assistance bureaucracy. Some evacuees were not aware they were eligible for assistance from FEMA and thus never applied, said case manager Alessandra Thomas. The organization believes that others' claims were inaccurately denied and plans to launch appeals on behalf of those clients.

 Duc said the community is grateful for the assistance. "You come here, you help our community," he told Thomas over tea one recent morning. "We appreciate that. We are happy about that." 

 But Boat People has had to surmount some cultural differences. 

 For many Vietnamese, the stubborn American tradition of refusing to take no for an answer is an alien concept, said Ha Hoa Dang, a spokesman for Boat People. 

 "They'll accept that when the U.S. government has said no, that means no," Dang said.

 Other more complex issues also have surfaced. For many Vietnamese fishermen, ownership of their boats is complicated. Some have tangled agreements  --  sometimes written, sometimes not  --  with others that make for messy insurance claims. Many had no flood insurance on their homes, or lost their insurance documents in the storm. 

 To reach the extensive Vietnamese communities in the New Orleans area, Boat People is distributing fliers and spreading the word through Buddhist temples and Vietnamese Catholic Churches. It also is relying on word of mouth.

 Working off a laptop on a folding table in the temple's cluttered fellowship hall, case managers Thomas and Phu Nguyen work with a steady stream of Katrina victims. They help some fill out paperwork to get free cell phones offered to Katrina evacuees through a Federal Communications Commission program. To others, they hand out fliers in Vietnamese that explain FEMA benefits and Boat People's program.

 Many, said Thomas, don't realize that they might be eligible for loans and grants from the government to help them rebuild their boats and homes. But she is confident that more will turn to Boat People for help as they hear about its services. "Word travels pretty fast here," she said. 

 As soon as Boat People showed up last month, Loan and Ky Le turned to the group for help.

  Boat People case workers say that the Le family has flood insurance for their mobile home and, fortunately, Loan was able to unearth from the rubble a letter certifying her claim. Even so, their claim was rejected, and Thomas is working with them to figure out why, launch an appeal and help them through the paperwork. 

 "She help me a lot," Loan said.

 Despite the devastating losses, she said, the couple isn't discouraged.

 As an example, Loan pointed to her husband, who squatted by the trailer, cigarette in hand. "He falls down, he stand up and he walk again. He keep working," she said. "He keep working." 

 

LOAD-DATE: February 9, 2006


 



3.    Atlanta Journal and Constitution, “Katrina evacuees check out,” February 8, 2006, page 7

9 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

Copyright 2006 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Copyright 2006 Atlanta Journal and Constitution 

Atlanta Journal and Constitution

 

February 8, 2006, Wednesday

 

KR-ACC-NO: AT-KATRINA-CHECKOUT-20060208

 

LENGTH: 840 words

 

HEADLINE: Katrina evacuees check out

 

BYLINE: By Anna Varela

 

BODY:

 

A little after noon Tuesday, hotel manager Detra Eady knocked on the doors of Katrina evacuees who had failed to vacate their rooms by the 11 a.m. checkout time.

She found two rooms with clothes strewn about but nobody inside. She figured the occupants were dodging her.

"They're just hoping that after a certain amount of time, we'll just let them stay another night," said Eady, office manager of the Country Hearth Suites in College Park.

After weeks of warning from federal authorities and hotel operators, Tuesday was checkout day in roughly 1,500 hotel rooms across Georgia for hurricane evacuees who did not seek an extension of federal funding for the rooms. Evacuees who registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency have checkout dates in coming weeks, with March 1 set as the final deadline for FEMA to stop paying for hotel rooms.

At the Country Hearth Suites, the occupants of 40 rooms were scheduled to move out Tuesday. A few evacuees paid so they could stay at the hotel Tuesday night, but most moved out quietly. One evacuee paused at the front desk to give Eady a hug before he left. The few who ducked her would find themselves locked out of their rooms with their belongings boxed up and waiting for them when they returned.

Across the metro area, social service agencies and some local governments had braced for the possibility that some evacuees would have nowhere to sleep Tuesday night. But few sought assistance.

As of midafternoon, the United Way's 211 help line reported fewer than six calls from evacuees seeking emergency housing help. In Cobb County, Travelers Aid helped five families who were in hotels get into apartments, said Charles Walker, area director of the United Way in Cobb County. Atlanta's Travelers Aid office is paying for nine families to stay in hotel rooms a few more days while the agency tries to help them move into apartments.

For some hotel operators, being a host to Katrina evacuees has been a mixed blessing. FEMA was reliable in paying the bills, but some evacuees were hard on the rooms.

At the Country Hearth, Eady said furniture in some evacuees' rooms would have to be replaced. The smell of cigarette smoke was strong and burn marks were easy to spot on one floor that was supposed to be smoke-free.

Somebody stole a printer from the business center.

"The money that we made will go back into fixing it [the hotel]," Eady said.

Across the street at the Microtel Inn in College Park, manager Adisa Joseph said most of the rooms that housed evacuees would have to be recarpeted. Many evacuees were noisy and unruly, prompting complaints from the usual mix of business and leisure guests.

Joseph said that in November, non-Katrina guests lodged 55 complaints.

Usually his property gets about three or four complaints per month.

Most of the evacuees who faced Tuesday's deadline had left by noon.

Joseph said a few were paying on their own to stay a little longer. He said he thought some who failed to contact FEMA for an extension had legal problems, such as outstanding warrants, and were avoiding authorities.

Richard Kemp, 40, moved Tuesday out of the nearby Country Inn in College Park, where eight rooms were being vacated. The former mover lived there for three months and also spent some time staying with a cousin.

Now he's going to stay with some friends from New Orleans who have gotten an apartment. He said he was thankful for FEMA's help with the hotel room. "I didn't have nowhere to go at one time."

In west Fulton, Mitchell Green left the Travelodge Six Flags on Tuesday morning, headed for a new rental house. Green said he and his wife and four children had a hard time finding a landlord willing to let them move in because he had some past credit problems.

The family's uninsured condo in New Orleans was a total loss. But he's found some construction work and hopes to make it permanent. His wife has found a job as a banquet server. And they finally found a property owner willing to give them a second chance. "It's all about applying yourself. All you've got to do is try."

Kazi Russell, the manager at Travelodge Six Flags, said he repeatedly reminded evacuees that they should contact FEMA if they needed to stay at the hotel longer. He said he thought most of those scheduled to vacate 69 rooms Tuesday had someplace to go. Some of those who failed to contact FEMA seemed to be people who did little more than hang out at the hotel all day, he said.

"Just like society, there are various types of people here."

Staff writers Eileen Drennen and Yolanda Rodriguez contributed to this article.

-----

To see more of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.ajc.com. Copyright (c) 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

 

JOURNAL-CODE: AT

 

LOAD-DATE: February 9, 2006


 



4.    Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, “IMPLEMENTING OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT,” February 2, 2006

 

14 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

Copyright 2006 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

 

February 8, 2006 Wednesday

 

SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY

 

LENGTH: 11750 words

 

COMMITTEE: SENATE FINANCE

 

HEADLINE: IMPLEMENTATION OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT

 

TESTIMONY-BY: MARK MCCLELLAN, ADMINISTRATOR

 

AFFILIATION: CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES

 

BODY:

Statement of Mark McClellan Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Committee on Senate Finance

February 08, 2006

Chairman Grassley, Senator Baucus, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. While millions of people with Medicare are now using their new drug coverage effectively, I also want to focus on the work we are doing around the clock to make sure every beneficiary gets the full benefit of their drug coverage.

New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Delivers Drugs and Savings to Millions

Prescription drugs are a critical component of 21st Century medicine, but until recently the Medicare program had never included an outpatient prescription drug benefit. Now, Medicare's new prescription drug benefit provides seniors and people with disabilities with comprehensive prescription drug coverage, the most significant improvement to senior health care in 40 years. Millions of seniors and people with disabilities are already using this benefit to save money, stay healthy, and gain peace of mind.

According to CMS' Office of the Actuary, Medicare's drug coverage will have significantly lower premiums and lower costs to federal taxpayers and states, as a result of stronger than expected competition in the prescription drug market. Moreover, beneficiary premiums are now expected to average $25 a month - down from the $37 projected in last July's budget estimates. The Federal government is now projected to spend about 20 percent less per person in 2006 and, over the next five years, payments are projected to be more than ten percent lower than first estimated, so taxpayers will see significant savings. And state contributions for a portion of Medicare drug costs for beneficiaries who are in both Medicaid and Medicare will be about 25 percent lower over the next decade. All these savings result from lower expected costs per beneficiary; projected enrollment in the drug benefit has not changed significantly.

Since the new prescription drug benefit began January 1, 2006, enrollment is off to a strong start. As of mid-January, nearly 24 million people with Medicare now have prescription drug coverage and tens of thousands are enrolling every day. Pharmacists across the nation are filling a million prescriptions each day for people with Medicare. Nationwide, pharmacists are processing more than 40,000 Medicare prescriptions an hour during peak hours as hundreds of thousands of people with Medicare are now getting help with their drug costs each day. In the first 10 days, over three million prescriptions were dispensed to Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes. And pharmacists across the country are reporting to CMS that people who did not have good coverage previously are now no longer struggling with their drug costs. For example, one pharmacist told us how, for the first time, he didn't have to advise his Medicaid patients about which prescription he couldn't fill completely because of Medicaid coverage limits.

Pharmacies have, though, had difficulty filling prescriptions for certain beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligibles), and some states have turned their state billing systems back on to help cover medications needed in these situations. We have put in place a demonstration project to reimburse states for the direct and administrative costs they have incurred since the initiation of the drug benefit, in temporarily filling this coverage gap for dual eligibles transitioning from Medicaid to Medicare drug coverage and are working with them to fully resolve this issue. As part of this demonstration, CMS will reconcile with the drug plans to ensure that they pay for covered drugs.

Many reports from people who are getting their drugs under the new prescription drug benefit, however, are very positive. One man wrote, "My drug bill went from $154.28 per month to $34 for the same drugs. That is a 78 percent savings! I chose a program that had no deductible so I would not have to wait to spend $250.

After paying the monthly fee of $39.50, my savings per month is 52.7 percent. Tell me I didn't get a good deal. . ."

Enrollment Status Update

Figure 1 shows the significant increases in enrollment from about 15 million people with drug coverage on December 21, 2005, just a week and a half prior to the onset of the prescription drug benefit to 24 million on January 14, 2006, two weeks after the benefit debuted.

Figure 1: Enrollment in Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Medicare Advantage-PDPs, and the Retiree Drug Subsidy.

Between mid-December and mid-January, more than 2.6 million people have signed up for the new stand-alone prescription drug coverage. This number is on top of the 1 million who enrolled in stand-alone plans in the first 30 days of the initial enrollment period. An additional 4.5 million individuals, including 600,000 full benefit dual eligible individuals are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Overall, about 6.2 million full benefit dual eligible individuals, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, have transitioned to Medicare prescription drug coverage. In addition, Medicare's retiree drug subsidy will reimburse a portion of drug costs incurred by at least 6.4 million retirees for 2006. Also, an estimated 1 million retirees are in employer- or union-sponsored coverage that incorporates or supplements Medicare's coverage. Another estimated 500,000 retirees are continuing in other employer or union coverage. An additional 3.1 million Medicare eligible retirees are receiving their coverage through TRICARE for Life or a Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan. Tens of thousands of beneficiaries continue to enroll every day.

CMS Works to Resolve Start-up Challenges

We are fully focused on resolving the difficulties that some beneficiaries have had in initiating their new Medicare coverage, especially those transferring from state Medicaid drug coverage. Adding a benefit as significant as the new Medicare prescription drug program, involves some start-up challenges. Our problem- solving activities fall into several key categories including:

1. transition of dual eligible individuals and late enrollees

2. data transmission issues,

3. customer service,

4. pharmacy support,

5. State reimbursement issues, and

6. compliance issues.

CMS recognizes the enormity of this transition and has been working intensively for many months with partners in and out of government, including States, plans, pharmacists, advocates, and other key partners to ensure the transition process is as smooth as possible for people with Medicare and all of our partners. Since the beginning of the year CMS has taken the following key actions to address our implementation challenges.

1. We have worked closely with the plans and our partners to get plan and enrollment information to dual eligible individuals who have not yet received complete information about their drug plan. Also we have transmitted information on dual and low-income subsidy eligible individuals to the plans so that they have correct information. We have encouraged this population to enroll, or make plan changes early in the month so that their information is available in plan and CMS systems on the first of the next month when they go to a pharmacy to obtain their medications,

2. We are improving our data systems and collaborating with plans and states to ensure smooth and complete data transmissions between ourselves, plans, and the states.

3. To ensure no one - whether a pharmacist, a beneficiary, or a doctor - has to wait on the phone to get help when seeking information on their coverage, we have strengthened our 1-800- MEDICARE call center and pharmacy helpline, and have taken steps to promote better call center performance by the drug plans as well. We are tracking how plans respond to requests for assistance on their customer and provider help lines and while many have already done so effectively, we expect all plans to get their wait times down to appropriate levels.

4. We have conducted numerous outreach events with pharmacists, included them in workgroups to resolve implementation problems, and worked with plans so that pharmacists get correct information and coverage decisions with regard to dispensing transitional supplies of medications. Pharmacists are working hard to meet the demands of new enrollees in a new system and we have provided them with a new E1 eligibility computer tool to help them find enrollment information more quickly. We have provided them with a way to provide drugs for dual eligible individuals who are not in the computer system at the pharmacy counter through WellPoint.

5. We have worked with those States that have taken steps to help their dual eligibles by using their State payment system to pay pharmacies. These states are paying for prescriptions that should be paid for by the drug plans and they need to be reimbursed for their costs. We have worked with States to identify approaches that minimize the number of claims paid for through their State billing system and we have established a demonstration project to reconcile State payments with plan obligations. We will pay for the difference between State and plan payments, as well as administrative costs.

6. While most plans are complying with the requirements set forth in their contracts, we will use the full array of administrative tools and other enforcement remedies to ensure plans live up to the terms of their contracts. We have made it clear to plans that they need to provide adequate supplies of transitional medications and work on their data transmission issues with pharmacies.

As a result of these and other efforts, which we describe in more detail below, we are not seeing nearly the extent of start of the month issues as we did in January.

We are seeing improvements on a daily basis as more people with Medicare receive their enrollment confirmations and their personal information is available in CMS' databases, which allows easy payment for their prescriptions. However, despite these efforts, we are very concerned that some people with Medicare have had difficulty accessing their drug coverage for the first time, in particular certain dual eligible beneficiaries with Medicare and Medicaid. These problems generally do not occur for people who completed their enrollment well in advance of the beginning of the month and received their drug benefit card before filling any prescriptions. Additionally, many of these initial problems have been relatively straightforward to resolve. For example, one woman stated on January 10, 2006 that she did not immediately receive her plan card although her husband received his from the same plan after enrolling at the same time. When she contacted the plan, the problem was quickly resolved. After getting her prescriptions filled, she reported, "I normally spend $538 for a three-month supply of my drugs. But this time it cost only $278. And these weren't even generic drugs." After people use the system once, these initial problems that some beneficiaries have faced do not recur.

We have been most concerned about helping dual eligible individuals use the new Medicare benefit. While the vast majority of the more than 6 million full benefit dual eligible individuals have already begun to use Medicare drug coverage, certain of these full benefit dual eligible individuals have had initial difficulties. In particular, the small number of full benefit dual eligible beneficiaries who switched plans towards the end of 2005 after their initial auto-enrollment did not have complete information available on their new plan's coverage in early January. In addition, information transfers among states, CMS, and plans did not occur perfectly for all beneficiaries who changed plans. CMS is committed to ensuring that all beneficiaries receive their needed prescription drugs, and as outlined below, is taking steps, in conjunction with States to assure this happens.

CMS worked with numerous partners leading up to the start of the drug benefit to educate beneficiaries and their caregivers about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. We, along with the plans, pharmacists, States, and hundreds of other partners, helped people understand how to make decisions about their prescription drug coverage based on cost, coverage and convenience.

As a result of our successful outreach efforts, we experienced a substantial surge in enrollment at the end of the year and many full benefit dual eligible individuals elected to change plans close to December 31, 2005. As shown in Figure 2, both visitors to the prescription drug plan on-line enrollment center and enrollments rose steadily throughout December and peaked at the end of the month with over 100,000 enrollments on both December 29 and 30, 2005. CMS continues to see tens of thousands of new enrollments daily.

Figure 2: Prescription Drug Plan On-Line Visitors and Enrollments

CMS Plans for Implementation of Drug Coverage on January 1, 2006 for Individuals Eligible for Both Medicare and Medicaid

After passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA) in December 2003, CMS began planning for implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It has taken many steps and partners to get to where we are today.

CMS Worked With States

Since both CMS and the States are responsible for administering benefits for the dual eligible individuals, CMS is committed to working with States on an ongoing and collaborative basis. Both CMS and the States are working to ensure the start up challenges for current dual eligible individuals are addressed. This effort has required an unprecedented level of collaboration between the States and Federal government. This work commenced in August 2004 through the State Issues Workgroup, which included representatives from State Medicaid Agencies, the Social Security Administration, and CMS.

CMS also has worked with States through various workgroups to assure that States report and CMS knows of every dual eligible beneficiary in the country undergoing this transition from Medicaid to Medicare drug coverage. In addition the CMS and State workgroups collaborated to

-- develop an efficient and effective application process for low- income beneficiaries who are not dual eligible individuals to apply for assistance with their drug costs;

-- train, educate, and conduct outreach in a coordinated fashion;

-- develop a process to auto-enroll every full benefit dual eligible beneficiary who does not join a Medicare prescription drug plan on his or her own; -- develop strategies for transitioning dual eligible individuals from Medicaid to Medicare while also assuring coordination of care; and

-- assure that the calculation of the phase down State contribution is accurate.

In addition to the ongoing efforts of the State Issues Workgroup, CMS engaged the States in a series of summits, conference calls, and workshops to discuss and address implementation issues associated with the MMA. These gatherings include monthly all- State conference calls; State Pharmacy Assistance Program (SPAP) Workgroup conference calls; and conferences hosted by organizations representing the States including the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Council of State Governments. In addition, CMS provided States with:

-- enrollment information for full-benefit dual eligible individuals including their assigned plans;

-- comparative information on the specific Medicare prescription drug plans including formularies and pharmacy networks that are serving each state; and

-- targeted educational and outreach materials.

Finally, CMS has worked diligently with States to appropriately identify their full benefit dual eligible individuals. CMS validated the information that States reported to minimize reporting errors, mistakes, and omissions that may affect the identification of the States' full benefit dual eligible residents. These validation data matches achieved rates of over 99 percent for all States, according to an independent evaluation completed in the fall of 2005.

CMS Automatically Enrolled Full Benefit Dual Eligible Individuals into Plans

To ensure that there was no lapse in prescription drug coverage for full benefit dual eligible individuals, CMS worked diligently to make sure they were enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan before January 1, 2006. In November 2005, any individual who was a full benefit dual eligible for even one month, beginning in March 2005, was automatically enrolled in a plan. CMS understood that the dual eligible population is typically the hardest to reach and preparation was necessary.

To that end, CMS sent letters in May to all full benefit dual eligible individuals to inform them of their upcoming auto- enrollment into a prescription drug plan. Then, in the fall, CMS sent these individuals a letter that informed them of their new plan and the option to choose another plan if they were not satisfied with the auto assignment. In addition to the letters, individuals can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out the plan in which they have been auto-enrolled.

Also, while other individuals generally have the opportunity to change plans only at the end of the calendar year, dual eligible individuals have the opportunity to change plans at any time. This flexibility ensures continuity of care when Medicaid prescription drug coverage ends, while also allowing them to select a plan that best meets their needs.

CMS also has worked with States to identify and auto-enroll individuals who are about to become full-benefit dual eligible prior to the end of their Medicaid drug coverage to work toward a seamless transition on an on-going basis. This includes those Medicaid individuals who will age into Medicare or who will reach the end of the 24-month Medicare disability waiting period.

CMS Developed New and Enhanced Information Technology Systems for the Prescription Drug Benefit

Information technology (IT) systems played a crucial role in ensuring the prescription drug benefit could be implemented January 1, 2006. Planning for the information technology to support the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit began in 2004 with CMS identifying the key functions affected by the new law and beginning development of a large- scale, integrated computer system. CMS ensured that more than one dozen critical systems development efforts were implemented in time to meet MMA-legislated deadlines. In conjunction with its business partners, CMS developed innovative solutions and leveraged existing business and systems relationships, such as using the existing pharmacy transaction processing network, to assist with the coordination of the various prescription drug benefit plans covering people with Medicare.

Staff created and modified a variety of complex, integrated systems that currently interact with the private and public sectors to implement the new benefits. These IT systems support the key critical business processes that CMS uses to manage the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit programs. The integrated system provides CMS with the ability, among other things, to enroll people with Medicare into prescription drug plans, make payments to plans, and ensure that beneficiaries receive their drug coverage. The integrated information technology system also allows CMS to pay the Retiree Drug Subsidy to approved plan sponsors and track True-Out-of-Pocket Expenses (TrOOP - costs borne by the enrollee) for people with Medicare. In addition, the updated systems ensure the correct premium amount is either paid directly to the plan or provided to the Social Security Administration to withhold from a beneficiary's Social Security check.

Through contracts with telecommunications clearinghouses that currently service the majority of retail pharmacies, the pharmacies will be able to perform real-time eligibility determinations and will be able to route claims to primary, and if applicable, secondary plans for proper adjudication to accurately coordinate benefits. The new and modified systems also were designed to ensure only authorized individuals have access to Medicare information.

CMS worked closely with industry experts to implement nine system modules. Implementation included application development and integration efforts, system engineering activities, and validation and testing. In order to meet the deadlines, CMS worked creatively and collaboratively to compress what would ordinarily be an 18 to 24-month systems development process. CMS ensured that the necessary computer and network capacity and capabilities were in place as the CMS IT applications came online.

These enhancements included

-- providing capabilities for more than 400 new CMS business partners to connect to CMS systems over the Internet,

-- providing advanced technology for secure file transfers, and

-- implementing a new user id/password management system.

CMS implemented backup and parallel support systems to minimize any vulnerabilities, and also oversaw the implementation of a secure, Internet-based computing environment in the CMS data center. If these systems had not come online on schedule, CMS would not be able to enroll beneficiaries or pay the health plans that are administering the new benefit. CMS set new standards for documenting requirements, program management, managing change, testing systems, and documenting and ensuring that system development life cycle reviews were undertaken.

Extensive Plan Formulary Requirements Provide Access to Needed Prescription Drugs

CMS developed a set of checks and oversight activities to ensure that prescription drug plans offer a comprehensive benefit that reflects best practices in the pharmacy industry, as well as current treatment standards. Plan formularies must recognize the special needs of particular types of people with Medicare, such as individuals with mental health issues, individuals with HIV/AIDS, individuals living in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and others who are stabilized on certain drug regimens. CMS has reviewed plan formularies and benefit structures to verify that they are in compliance with the following critical requirements. A plan's formulary must cover multiple drugs in each class with a minimum statutory requirement of at least two drugs in each approved category and class (unless only one drug is available for a particular category or class). Furthermore, CMS requires that each plan's formulary include all or substantially all drugs in each of the following key categories: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anticancer drugs, immunosuppressants, and antiretrovirals for treating HIV/AIDS.

In addition, each Medicare prescription drug plan's formulary was developed and reviewed by the plan's pharmacy and therapeutics committee. Each formulary must be consistent with widely used industry best practices. Furthermore, CMS compared the prescription drug plans' use of benefit management tools to the way these tools are used in existing drug plans to ensure they are being applied in a clinically appropriate fashion. Prescription drug plan formularies typically include upwards of 80 percent of the 100 most commonly used drugs.

CMS has developed exceptions procedures designed to ensure that enrollees receive prompt decisions regarding whether medications are medically necessary. For example, if the enrollee is requesting coverage of a non-formulary drug, the drug may be covered if the prescribing physician determines that all of the drugs on the formulary would not be as effective as the non- formulary drug or would have adverse effects for the enrollee, or both. The plan would have to review the physician's determination and must make its decision as expeditiously as the enrollee's health condition requires after it receives the request, but no later than 24 hours for an expedited coverage determination or 72 hours for a standard coverage determination.

CMS Required Plans to Have a Transition Process for All Individuals

CMS required each Medicare prescription drug plan to establish an appropriate transition plan for all new enrollees. All of the transition plans now include a minimum 30-day one-time fill of any prescription drug excluded from the plan's formulary in order to accommodate situations in which a non-formulary prescription has previously been filled at a participating pharmacy. Each transition plan identifies the plan sponsor's method of educating both people with Medicare and providers to ensure a safe and complete accommodation of an individual's medical needs within the plan's formulary. Additionally, CMS recommends that transition plans address unanticipated enrollee transitions when individuals need to change treatment settings due to a change in their level of care.

CMS Worked Toward Achieving a Smooth Transition in Long Term Care Facilities

CMS is committed to ensuring that people with Medicare in long- term care (LTC) facilities continue to receive the medications and pharmacy services they need under the new Medicare prescription drug coverage without interruption.

There are 1.6 million people with Medicare who are residents in 15,800 nursing homes throughout the nation. A majority of individuals in long term care facilities are Medicare beneficiaries, many of them are dual eligible. Individuals in LTC facilities represent a unique and vulnerable population because they have cognitive and/or functional impairments. This population typically has multiple co-morbidities, the highest utilization of drugs, with an average of nine medications per day, and the highest spending for prescription drugs compared to other people with Medicare.

In March 2005, CMS issued guidance for the implementation of CMS requirements regarding pharmacies that provide products and services to individuals in LTC facilities. This guidance addressed pharmacy performance and service criteria, convenient access standards, formulary considerations, and other beneficiary protections that prescription drug plans should consider as they develop their prescription drug benefit offerings for people with Medicare in LTC facilities.

Auto-enrollment of Individuals in LTC

Cognitively impaired individuals represent a particularly difficult group to educate about their enrollment options. Much of this population, specifically full benefit dual eligible individuals, was auto-enrolled into the new prescription drug benefit. CMS encouraged nursing homes to determine into which plans their residents were auto-enrolled prior to January 1, 2006. As part of this initiative, CMS established dedicated call lines and overnight mail options to allow nursing homes to fax and mail beneficiary information to CMS customer service representatives (CSRs). This strategy enabled CMS to help nursing homes identify the plans for more than 500,000 residents. Pharmacists used the electronic eligibility and enrollment verification (E1) system to identify the remainder.

By notifying plans that their enrollees reside in nursing homes, CMS is ensuring nursing home residents have access to Medicare drug coverage without premiums and copays.

Performance and Service Criteria for Pharmacies Providing LTC Service

To address the unique and diverse needs of people with Medicare in LTC, CMS developed minimum performance and service criteria for pharmacies providing LTC service, based on widely used best practices in the market today and with input from external stakeholders. These criteria address:

-- Comprehensive inventory and inventory capacity

-- Pharmacy operations and prescription orders

-- Special packaging of medicines

-- IV medications

-- Compounding and alternative forms of drug composition

-- Pharmacist on-call service

-- Delivery service

-- Emergency boxes

-- Emergency log books

-- Miscellaneous reports, forms and prescription ordering supplies

For example, network LTC pharmacies (NLTCPs) must have the capacity to provide specific drugs in unit of use packaging, bingo cards, cassettes, unit dose or other special packaging commonly required by LTC facilities. NLTCPs must have access to or arrangements with a vendor to furnish supplies and equipment including but not limited to labels, auxiliary labels, and packing machines for furnishing drugs in such special packaging required by the LTC setting. Additionally, NLTCPs must provide on- call, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service with a qualified pharmacist available for handling calls after hours and must have medication dispensing capability available for emergencies, holidays and after hours of normal operations.

Prescription Drug Plan Formularies for LTC residents

In the long term care setting, the Medicare prescription drug plan formularies are in general more robust than State preferred drug lists or commercial formularies. Plans must accommodate within a single formulary structure the needs of long term care residents by providing coverage for all medically necessary medications at all levels of care. Coverage of all medically necessary medications may include, but is not limited to, alternative dosage forms such as liquids that can be administered through feeding tubes, intravenous medications, or intramuscular injections.

CMS recommended nursing homes include a 90 to 180 day transition period to accommodate the needs of Medicare beneficiaries residing in long-term care facilities. The vast majority of plans are providing 90 day transition periods with many offering the option of extending to180 days. However, the LTC emergency first fill policy is unique to this setting and continues throughout the entire year for any off-formulary prescription written. In addition, plans are required to cover drugs as written during the 7 to 14 days allowed for initial exceptions and appeals process.

CMS Provides Education Regarding LTC Pharmacy Requirements

Prior to the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, CMS conducted extensive outreach and education to ensure LTC facilities, pharmacies and other stakeholders were informed about requirements for delivering services under the benefit. CMS established a working group consisting of representatives from the American Health Care Association, American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, American Medical Directors Association, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, National Center for Assisted Living, Assisted Living Federation of America, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services that assisted CMS over an eight month period in 2005.

CMS also provided and continues to provide instruction through trade association newsletters, fiscal intermediary newsletters and conferences. In addition, CMS developed electronic messages that are shown to facilities each time they enter data on the Minimum Data Set (MDS) - part of the federally mandated process that provides a comprehensive clinical assessment of all residents in Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes. Education efforts included, for example, a three pronged approach for ensuring that nursing home residents who are in the process of spending down their assets to qualify for Medicaid, simultaneously apply for Medicaid and the low income subsidy and enroll in a PDP to maximize their prescription drug benefits. This outreach also included numerous Open Door Forums, in which all stakeholders were invited to participate so CMS could share the outcomes of critical policy and procedural decisions and to solicit feedback on areas of concern.

CMS Educated and Coordinated Outreach Efforts for Pharmacies

Partnerships: CMS worked extensively with pharmacy industry leaders to educate and motivate the pharmacist community about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Specifically, we partnered with chain and independent pharmacies in an education and outreach program for the low-income subsidy, which reached over 30,000 stores. CMS participated in 24 town hall events hosted by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). These events provided a prescription drug benefit overview to independent pharmacists and a question and answer session following each event. In total, over 6,500 pharmacists participated in this program. Direct Communications: CMS made extensive efforts to directly reach pharmacists in preparation for January 1, 2006. CMS created the Medicare Rx Update as a periodic update to pharmacists to ensure they are well informed about the details of the Medicare prescription drug benefit implementation. CMS distributed the Rx Updates through the internet to directly reach practicing pharmacists with highlights and clarifications about implementation issues. Since its inception in May 2005, CMS has sent 25 Rx Updates to the pharmacy community addressing topics including the pharmacists' role with the low income subsidy, marketing guidelines, the prescription drug plan compare tool, and the true-out-of-pocket (TrOOP) facilitator. With thousands of subscribers and because State and national organizations distribute the Update as well, these bulletins have gone a long way toward educating the pharmacy community about the procedures related to the new benefit.

CMS also created and maintains a website (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/Pharmacy/  ) specifically for pharmacists. In addition to the Medicare Rx Updates, the pharmacist website contains informative prescription drug benefit guidance, links to training materials, information for special practice pharmacies, and more. CMS' pharmacist outreach team, which includes our regional pharmacists, has conducted the most targeted personal outreach. CMS' central office pharmacy team, which includes 21 pharmacists, as well as the pharmacists and staff from CMS' 10 regional offices, have traveled the country educating pharmacists in all practice settings about the new benefit. The pharmacists have presented at hundreds of events and gatherings reaching tens of thousands of pharmacists.

Furthermore, CMS created a forum known as the Pharmacy Information Exchange, a periodic open phone town hall style meeting. Hundreds of pharmacists attended calls hosted by CMS' pharmacists. These calls have enabled CMS to present on relevant topics, answer many questions and identify new issues from the community. Finally, CMS has developed two pharmacist-specific continuing education programs that were distributed through the on-line arm of Drug Topics, the magazine dedicated to the profession of pharmacy, and through Kansas University, respectively.

Plans to Address Pharmacy Operational Issues: Finally, as January 1, 2006 approached, CMS finalized a comprehensive plan for further pharmacist training, including materials targeted to explain technical details of the TrOOP facilitation process, Medicare Part B versus Part D coverage, out-of-network policies for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the point-of-sale facilitated enrollment process for full benefit dual eligible individuals, and more. CMS is working directly with a wide range of pharmacy organizations, identifying operational questions for pharmacists and developing dynamic action plans on how to anticipate problems and, to the extent that we can, address them in advance. In preparation for the first days of the benefit, CMS engaged the pharmacy community on a daily basis so that the Agency could work directly with the industry to provide direct assistance for any issues that arose in the early days of implementation. CMS Worked With Physicians

An important part of CMS' outreach and education effort included the physician community. Throughout 2005, CMS medical officers spoke to 24 physician specialty groups about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, transition policies and formulary exceptions and appeals. CMS has held weekly telephone question and answer calls for physicians, other prescribers, and their office staff in anticipation of the new drug benefit. The first call had 1,300 callers and is averaging about 500 callers a week now. CMS has had a similar call for mental health providers and a call focused specifically on distinguishing between coverage for Part B and Part D prescription drugs. In addition, CMS participates in the AMA workgroup, which has been meeting since November to discuss physician issues and suggest improvements and refinements.

Point-of-Sale System Facilitates Enrollment

CMS is making its best effort to identify and auto-enroll full benefit dual eligible individuals prior to the effective date of their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage eligibility. However, it is possible that some individuals may go to pharmacies before they have been auto-enrolled in a prescription drug plan. For this reason, in anticipation of the shift from the Medicaid to the Medicare program of full benefit dual eligible individuals' drug benefits, CMS has developed a process for a point-of-sale interaction to ensure these individuals experience no gap in coverage. CMS contracted with WellPoint, a national prescription drug plan to provide prescriptions and enrollment at the pharmacy point-of-sale (POS). The relationship with WellPoint is specifically designed to ensure that pharmacists can fill prescriptions and bill WellPoint for full benefit dual eligible individuals who had not been previously enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan.

Beneficiaries, who present at a pharmacy with evidence of both Medicaid and Medicare eligibility, but without current enrollment in a prescription drug plan, can leave the pharmacy with a filled prescription and the claim for their medication submitted to a single account for payment. A CMS contractor will immediately follow up to validate eligibility and facilitate enrollment of the full-benefit dual eligible individual into a prescription drug plan.

CMS has provided information on the WellPoint system to pharmacy associations, plans, and individual pharmacies. This information describes how the process of POS-facilitated enrollment starts at the pharmacy with the pharmacist verifying dual eligibility and billing a special WellPoint account in order to ensure that the individual with Medicare receives the prescription.

CMS Takes Action to Ensure Timely Receipt of Prescription Drugs after Start of Benefit

Despite the best efforts of everyone involved there was a previously described group of dual eligible individuals who had difficulty when they initially used their drug coverage. In addition, CMS has taken steps to address other issues that have arisen with the implementation of the drug benefit. These issues are being resolved as rapidly as we can address them and we are encouraged by the responses from the plans, pharmacies, and States who are working with us in these efforts.

Meanwhile, millions of people with Medicare, who previously had no coverage at all, now have significant help, and many who had coverage through a State or employer plan, now have enhanced coverage.

CMS Works to Ensure Emergency Fills for Dual Eligible Individuals

CMS is working to ensure that dual eligible individuals who need emergency fills of their prescriptions receive them in a timely fashion. If any dual eligible individual needs prescriptions immediately, and other mechanisms have not worked, CMS can help them get the medicines they need. Many pharmacies are filling prescriptions for dual eligible individuals that present at the pharmacy counter when enrollment and billing information cannot be confirmed. If the individual is in an urgent situation, he or she should call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or the pharmacist can call the pharmacy helpline and tell the CMS customer service representative that a person with Medicare has an urgent situation. As described below, CMS casework staff will be alerted and help the person obtain his/her medication.

CMS Educates People with Medicare About the Timing of Selecting a Plan

CMS has informed people with Medicare about the need to allow some time between the date of enrollment and their first attempt to fill a prescription. This provides CMS and the plans with enough time to see to it that the data systems are accurately updated in order to properly handle the filling of a prescription. This occurs anytime someone enrolls in a new health insurance plan or changes plans, and we want people with Medicare to be aware of this.

Generally, if an individual newly enrolls in a plan, or switches to a different plan by the 15th of the month, their information should be available at the pharmacy by the beginning of the next month. So we have begun encouraging people with Medicare to enroll at least a few weeks before they expect to need drug coverage, and to be prepared to wait several weeks to be fully entered into the system and our data show that message is getting through. In the last half of December, hundreds of thousands of individuals who were auto-enrolled elected a different plan, compared to about 24,000 during the last week of January.

We are developing model language for plans to use to inform their enrollees of these facts, and will also provide those who enroll through our 1-800-MEDICARE call centers and our internet-based Plan Finder tool with a similar notice. Enrollees will also be informed that while waiting for the data systems to be appropriately modified, they may, if need be, use the acknowledgement letter sent to them by the plan when they go to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions.

CMS Supports Ongoing Success of IT Systems

To continually improve the IT systems and CMS services to the beneficiaries, plans, and pharmacies, CMS continues to work closely with the plans via system-level conference calls that occur three times a week, in addition to the twice-daily production calls that synchronize the complex operations of all systems. Also, the Agency pulled together critical resources to:

-- evaluate the performance of systems,

-- identify issues with the plans and pharmacies, and

-- develop and implement corrective actions.

Based on these evaluations, CMS has identified, in priority order, key performance and operations issues. The resolution and implementation of the solutions is underway.

CMS has taken steps to ensure plans have the means to cross-check CMS data with plan data for improved accuracy and completeness to ensure that dual eligible individuals can be appropriately identified when they present at the pharmacy counter. On January 12, 2006 and again on January 18, 2006, CMS sent files to each plan with information about its dual eligible enrollees along with instructions on how to process these files. As these data are processed by plans, this process is substantially reducing the workload of the pharmacists and assisting the vast majority of dual eligible individuals in getting their drugs. Providing this information enables pharmacists to identify plans in which dual eligible individuals are enrolled and ensure that correct and appropriate co-payments are charged to the individual with Medicare. Furthermore, on January 30, 2006, CMS sent an additional file of low income subsidy eligible individuals, this time using an enrollment effective date of February 1, 2006. This file should provide an additional source of information for many of the plan changes that have taken place in the past couple of weeks and help plans prepare for enrollments that are effective beginning in February.

CMS also has been working with specific plans to resolve their unique issues surrounding sending and receiving data files from CMS. As a result of these efforts, dual eligible beneficiaries who had been having difficulty with correct co-payments and eligibility are now getting their prescriptions filled correctly.

To ensure CMS' performance evaluation system and corrective actions are effective, CMS contracted with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as an independent reviewer to help resolve specific data translation issues with the plans, States, and pharmacies.

CMS Improves 1-800 MEDICARE Call Center to Reduce Wait Times

CMS' 1-800 MEDICARE Call Center has customer service representatives (CSRs) available to answer Medicare questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As shown in Figure 3, call volume to 1-800-MEDICARE peaked around 400,000 calls when enrollment began on November 15, 2005 and again in early to mid-January.

Figure 3: Call Volume to 1-800-Medicare

On average, callers have experienced wait times of less than two minutes from mid-November to mid-January, with longer waits sometimes occurring during peak call periods.

CMS has increased the number of CSRs from 3,000 in June of 2004 to as many as 7,800 to handle beneficiary calls. We have also acquired additional infrastructure including telephone lines, workstations, and seats at call center sites. We have upgraded our CSR scripts by reducing redundant information, indexing scripts for quick access, and including probing questions to help the CSRs better identify the caller's concerns.

CMS has implemented a major enhancement through the use of Smart Scripts, which provide the CSRs with an easily followed path of responses to the most frequently asked questions. Smart Scripts are a new type of script that has hyperlinks built into the body of the text that when activated will take the CSR directly to related information about that subject. In addition, we have CSRs participate in the content workgroups for the actual development of scripts and job aides. CMS also has implemented a CSR feedback system and streamlined our approval process for updating the scripts in a timely manner to respond to the changing needs of our customers or to incorporate policy updates.

CMS hired and trained additional staff to exclusively use the Prescription Drug Plan Finder (PDP) tool to handle only PDP calls. All CSRs receive one week of classroom training followed by two or three additional days of practice calls, simulation, quality monitoring and follow-up coaching to ensure peak performance. CSR certification with a written examination and test calls is required prior to taking live calls. Calls are being handled on an in-bound basis and steps CMS has taken to strengthen the call centers' capabilities and reduce wait times have made it possible to address beneficiaries' concerns as they arise.

CMS customer satisfaction surveys indicate that the bulk of callers who interact with our CSRs, 84 percent, are satisfied with their experience. They are particularly pleased with how courteous and patient the CSRs are (rated at 97 and 95 percent, respectively). These responses came not only from people with Medicare, but also friends or relatives calling on their behalf, who made up 48 percent of callers during December, 2005.

CMS' Medicare website,  http://www.medicare.gov , has also been a source of useful information for people with Medicare. Since the first of the year, our frequently asked questions have been accessed more than 530,000 times. CMS has also responded to over 5,300 e- mails received through the site, with 93 percent of them being resolved satisfactorily in the first response.

CMS Works with Plans to Improve Their Customer Service

In addition to this significant strengthening of our 1-800- MEDICARE capabilities, we have issued guidance to the plans, instructing them to increase the numbers of CSRs in their own call centers and improve their abilities to immediately resolve enrollee concerns. Plans have responded and reported significant increases in the number of CSRs in their call centers.

We have also informed plans that they must comply with their transition policies so that enrollees who require a specific medications are able to obtain coverage for a one-time supply of those drugs, while they work with their physician and plan to select a new drug in the same therapeutic class, or appeal for coverage of their existing prescription. CMS also required plans to inform their CSRs about their transition policies and empower them to permit a pharmacy to dispense these drugs.

Most recently, we have notified plans, letting them know that the 30 day transitional coverage period would be extended another 60 days, to provide enough medications to their enrollees while implementation challenges are resolved.

CMS Takes Steps to Identify Areas of Concern

To address the need to capture and track complaints, CMS developed the Complaints Tracking Module (CTM). The CTM is a central repository for complaints that come in to CMS' Central Office, and ten Regional offices and the Medicare Rx Integrity Contractors through 1-800-MEDICARE or CMS directly. The CTM is designed to capture complaints from beneficiaries, providers, or plans about prescription drug plans, pharmacies, subcontractors, and providers. Because it is a web-enabled system, CTM can be accessed from off-site locations. This allows for regional and off-site staff to quickly enter information into the system. Since complaints may need to be escalated or referred across components, referral capabilities exist for this type of transfer. This provides for an efficient exchange of information, which allows for a quicker resolution and accountability, as each complaint is assigned to only one individual at a time.

CMS began development of the CTM in the fall of 2005 and refined the system in response to input from various stakeholders. The design of CTM format and content were driven from previous experience with the Drug Card, intra-agency components, and insights from the Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) Industry.

CMS launched the CTM into production on October 3, 2005. Since this time, the CTM has been fully tested to accept large numbers of daily transactions simultaneously from many users across the Agency. CMS began tracking complaints in January and although this process is still in the early stages, we have seen a general decline in complaints.

CMS Provides Caseworkers for One-on-One Counseling

While millions of prescriptions are being filled for people with Medicare, CMS is very concerned about those individuals who are encountering difficulties at the pharmacy counter. This is certainly distressing for those individuals and their caregivers.

CMS has established a system to help resolve urgent issues on a case-by-case basis. CMS has hundreds of trained caseworkers who are working as rapidly as possible with individuals with Medicare and plans to resolve urgent issues to help ensure that people with Medicare get their prescriptions filled. CMS urges people with Medicare or their family members who are having difficulties to call 1-800-MEDICARE, and if necessary, their case will be forwarded to our caseworkers. Urgent cases have high priority for rapid resolution.

While the number of individual cases is small in comparison to the millions of prescriptions and individuals who are successfully receiving their prescriptions, CMS is committed to ensuring that every individual receives their needed medicines, are properly identified, and are charged the appropriate co-pays in the future. CMS Provides Dedicated Support to Pharmacists CMS has provided a number of ways for pharmacists to obtain help in filling prescriptions for plan enrollees. If the enrollee does not have a card, pharmacists can use our eligibility system (the E1 system) to obtain information needed to fill the prescription. Pharmacists can also call plans directly, on lines dedicated for pharmacists. They can contact Medicare's own CSRs if need be, and CMS also has specially trained case workers in our regional offices who can intervene in special cases to make sure that enrollees get the medications they need.

CMS has significantly increased the capacity of the toll-free pharmacy support phone lines to help resolve issues pharmacists encounter in dispensing medications to those newly enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug plans. CMS has increased its call handling capacity at the pharmacist help line 30 fold and the line is now available 24 hours a day. We have increased the CSR staffing to support this initiative from 150 CSRs to about 4,500. The increased capacity has reduced the wait time to less than a minute for pharmacists who want to use this mode of communication for eligibility and enrollment determination.

CMS Responds to Early Technical Problems with the Eligibility and Enrollment Query System for Pharmacists

During the first week of the Medicare prescription drug program, CMS experienced some delays in response time with the new computer tool provided to pharmacists for real time enrollment and eligibility look-up. Working with our contractor, CMS has improved response time to less than one second with no delays. CMS continues to load data into this system from information obtained on individuals' recent enrollment or plan switching activity, which will help pharmacists obtain complete enrollment and billing information on more individuals when they use the E1 system at the pharmacy counter. As shown in Figure 4, CMS is seeing an overall decline in the number of times pharmacists must utilize the E1 system from a high of 1.47 million to about a half million in recent days. This reflects a more efficient and effective use of the system after CMS issued a tip sheet in early January on how best to use the system. In addition, more individuals have received appropriate plan identification information, so the need for the E1 system has declined.

Figure 4: Total Inquiries to E1 Eligibility System

In addition, pharmacists are reporting that they are experiencing improvements in their ability to query and obtain information from the E1 eligibility transaction system. One pharmacist noted on January 11, 2006, "I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that our 434 pharmacies have found the (E1) system very helpful and we have seen the system's 'integrity' improve significantly from January 2, 2006 to today."

CMS Addresses Issues Between Plans and Pharmacies

In addition, CMS and the Medicare health plans are working to address a number of issues that will improve the efficiency of the process at the pharmacy counter and assure that all people with Medicare get the medications they need. Among the steps CMS has facilitated are: a) increasing the capacity of plan help lines; b) providing direct plan-to-pharmacist technical support; and c) streamlining the data submission and reporting procedures from plans to CMS. Additionally, on January 6, 2006, CMS sent a second letter to plans on enforcement of their own transition plans by educating their customer service representatives (CSRs) and ensuring that their data systems have the appropriate information to implement their transition plans. CMS sent two additional letters to the plans on January 13, 2006 providing further clarification on formulary transition policies and expedited processes on cost sharing for dual eligible and other low-income beneficiaries.

Specifically, CMS required plans to make override information readily available to pharmacists, which will allow the correct co- payment to be charged. Should the plans' pharmacist assistance line be inaccessible, CMS can provide assistance through Medicare's 1-866 designated pharmacist help-line. CMS also specified that steps have been taken to ensure that pharmacists can override inappropriate claim denials. For example, plans must have expedited procedures for pharmacists to obtain authorization to override any improper claim denial, in accordance with their transition policy, in case a beneficiary's prescribed medications are not on the plan's formulary. In all of these areas, health plans had already responded by taking these and other steps to assist beneficiaries. The CMS actions help ensure that all plans provide effective service.

Typically, under Medicaid, pharmacists were paid on a weekly basis. Most of the drug plans use a somewhat longer payment cycle and pharmacists have expressed concern over when they will be paid. We recognize this concern and want to let pharmacists know that we are aware of it. As we look forward to renewing plan's contracts for 2007, a plan's working relationship with its network pharmacies will be an important factor in our assessment of whether the plan has sufficient personnel and systems in place to effectively administer and manage its operations.

CMS continues to hold regular one-on-one calls with the plans to identify issues and solutions. CMS is in constant communication with the plans pertaining to issues as they arise, and the Agency has developed a collaborative process whereby CMS organizes calls with plans and their pharmacists to resolve problems as quickly as possible.

CMS Continues Extensive Outreach to Pharmacists

Since implementation of the benefit, CMS has continued its extensive outreach to pharmacists. We have continued discussions with pharmacy organizations both centrally and regionally, as well as our direct contact with both independent and chain pharmacies. Additionally, CMS hosted a technical support teleconference for pharmacists across the country January 5, 2006 and also hosted a national open door forum for pharmacists January 10, 2006 to answer questions. The first was to directly address the point of sale enrollment process. The second call addressed many implementation issues and included a lengthy question and answer session. We have also sent four Medicare Rx Update communications since December 30, 2005. CMS has identified frequently asked questions regarding the point of sale facilitated enrollment system, plan transition policies, plan contact information, "What If" scenarios for pharmacists, tips for using the E1 system and much more. Specific examples of outreach that CMS has performed in relation to January 1, 2006 issues include:

-- Daily calls with pharmacists and pharmacy executives all over the country. These calls help identify trends and workable solutions to numerous issues associated with implementation as well as facilitating outreach to thousands of pharmacists.

-- Over 1,000 emails and calls in direct response to specific issues presented to the pharmacist since January 1.

In addition, CMS is holding weekly conferences with pharmacy associations that help CMS distribute information and educate pharmacists to ensure they have the most complete and up-to-date information possible. Also, CMS is communicating on a daily basis with both chain and independent pharmacies. Pharmacists in CMS' ten regional offices are working directly with local pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy associations to identify troubling trends and specific problems.

CMS is working closely with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Community Pharmacist Association (NCPA), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the National Council of State Pharmacy Association Executives (NCSPAE), the American Society for the Automation of Pharmacy (ASAP) and other groups to help communicate with and educate their membership.

CMS Continues Outreach with Physicians

On January 1 CMS placed an announcement on the welcome page to our Physicians Regulatory Issues Team (PRIT) website with advice for providers and an invitation for them to call or email CMS with issues or concerns about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. We have received and responded to almost 200 emails from providers.

In addition, CMS sent a letter to physicians outlining specific sources of help and information including the following.

-- A web-based formulary finder linked to all plan formularies.

-- Information about Epocrates, an electronic handheld and web- based drug and formulary reference for physicians, that is providing plan formulary information including both tier and step therapy information and is updated constantly.

-- An exceptions and appeals contact list for each prescription drug plan so physicians can help a patient by filing a prior authorization for a medication or appeal a medication's tier.

-- Information about coverage determinations, exceptions, appeals, and expedited requests.

-- A universal, faxable form created by a coalition of medical societies and advocacy groups for pharmacists and physicians to use in the event a patient's prescription is not on a formulary or on a higher tier. This optional form provides a straightforward way for the pharmacist to communicate with a physician's office.

-- A chart to determine if the drug a physician prescribed is a Part B or Part D drug.

-- Information about the CMS web-based email and weekly conference calls where physicians can get direct help with their concerns.

CMS Continues Collaboration with States

To ensure ongoing coordination with the States after the prescription drug benefit began, CMS is hosting conference calls with the State Medicaid Directors about Medicare prescription drug plan implementation challenges and solutions several times each week. Additionally, calls continue with States and plans, pharmacists, and CMS staff. CMS regional offices are making regular calls to the State Medicaid Directors and their staff with updates and to address specific problems.

In an effort to assist State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) with their backlog of beneficiary calls, CMS created a virtual call center comprised of over 150 staff from CMS, and the Administration on Aging (AoA). CMS and AoA returned thousands of calls to answer beneficiary questions and assist in finding a prescription drug plan to best fit their needs.

CMS Establishes Reimbursement Plan for States that Cover the Cost of Dual Eligible or Low-Income Subsidy Entitled Individuals

CMS is working with the States to ensure all dual eligible individuals are able to leave the pharmacy with the drugs they need. In addition, pharmacies need to continue to work with the plans to sort out start-up issues as quickly as possible. However, some States are reporting that dual eligible individuals have been charged the wrong cost sharing amounts when they have gone to the pharmacy and some have left the pharmacy without their drugs.

Certain States have taken steps to help their dual eligible and other low-income subsidy entitled beneficiaries by using their State system of reimbursement to pharmacies. These States are now paying for prescriptions that should be paid for by the prescription drug plans, and, if States have stepped in they will be reimbursed.

On February 2, CMS sent a letter to all state Medicaid Directors, and State Pharmacy Assistance Program Directors to inform them of a new Medicare demonstration project to defray specific costs they have incurred surrounding the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Specifically, the demonstration permits Medicare payment to be made to States for costs they have incurred for medications covered under the drug benefit, including transitional supplies, for both dual eligible and low- income subsidy entitled plan enrollee's, to the extend that those costs are not otherwise recoverable from a drug plan and are not the Medicare beneficiary's cost sharing requirement.

Under this demonstration, States will submit to CMS information on claims they paid for dual and low-income subsidy entitled individuals and CMS will work to ensure that prescription drug plans reimburse States for those expenses up to the amount they would otherwise have paid. The Federal government will reimburse States for any differential between plan reimbursement and State payment, as well as for certain administrative costs for paying the State claims and facilitating the correct enrollment of dual and low-income subsidy entitled individuals into a prescription drug plan. States will work with CMS to help obtain accurate beneficiary information on drug spending. They will also use payment approaches that support pharmacists' efforts to primarily bill the Medicare prescription drug plans and ensure the use of the Medicare point-of-sale billing before relying on State payment such that states serve as a payer of last resort.

The demonstration requires States to make significant progress by February 15, 2006, toward turning off their State reimbursement systems and supporting beneficiaries and pharmacists in using the Medicare prescription drug system, based on best practices identified by the States and CMS.

With input through a State workgroup, CMS developed a template to apply for this demonstration for use by those States. The template was made available on February 2.

In addition to providing reimbursement to the States, the demonstration will include timely data sharing and claims identification features. States that participate should provide timely summary information on claims incurred, including summary amount and beneficiary identification information, to facilitate reconciliation and beneficiary transition to prescription drug plans. States should also work with CMS to provide valid data on any set of beneficiaries who may not have been included properly in the State's previous dual eligible files. Also, States should separate claims for the transition period from claims the States would have otherwise paid through a separate State program. In some States, the State has elected to pay all cost sharing, for example, on behalf of some individuals who would otherwise have paid a co-payment.

Under the demonstration, plans, and then Medicare, will reimburse State paid claims previously incurred and up to and through the anticipated end date of this demonstration of February 15, 2006. CMS will continue to work closely with the States, as we have been, to resolve temporary transition issues and make sure people with Medicare can get the new prescription drug coverage if they want it.

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Significantly Less Expensive than Expected

While we are working through the various implementation challenges, it is important that some extremely good news, mentioned earlier, not be overlooked. Robust competition in the prescription drug marketplace has resulted in impressive savings for people who enroll in a drug plan, Federal taxpayers, and the States. Savings are not coming because enrollment is low. As discussed earlier, we are well on our way to meeting our projected enrollment figures. The savings are coming as a result of lower than expected per-beneficiary costs. Hard data that we now have, not simply estimates, tell us that the average monthly premium will be $25, only 68 percent of the $37 figure we had originally estimated.

The net cost to the Federal government for the drug coverage in 2006 is expected to be $30.5 billion down from a previously estimated $38.1 billion. The actual or "net" costs to the Federal government, accounting for Medicaid savings, are also significantly lower over 10 years, dropping from last year's estimated $737 billion to $678 billion. For the 10-year period from 2006-2015, the "total" Medicare drug benefit cost, without accounting for the Medicaid impact, is now estimated to be about $130 billion less - $797 billion compared to an estimated $926 billion last year.

State government will also see significant savings as a result of lower than expected phased-down contributions for the drug coverage. The state payments are now projected to be $37 billion (27 percent) less over a 10-year period. The Medicare Modernization Act included the phased-down contributions, sometimes known as "clawback" payments, to account for a portion of the costs that states had previously paid for Medicare beneficiaries who are also in Medicaid, because they are now getting their drug coverage from Medicare.

CMS Continues to Work Hard to Ensure the Most Important New Benefit in 40 Years Delivers Drugs to People with Medicare

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and the transition process and protections for people with Medicare. Transition is never without challenges. CMS is taking many steps with systems, plans, pharmacists, States, and other partners to quickly resolve the implementation challenges that have arisen in the first weeks of this beneficial new program, and we appreciate your collaborative efforts to address them.

To summarize, as I have laid out above, we are focusing on the following:

-- Making sure drug plans have up-to-date information on all their dual eligible beneficiaries;

-- Improving the "data translation" between Medicare, health plans, and states;

-- Ensuring that calling 1-800-MEDICARE means virtually no wait time;

-- Monitoring and reporting call wait times for drug plans;

-- Assuring plans meet contractual payment terms for pharmacies;

-- Extending transition coverage for a beneficiary's current drugs to 90 days;

-- Working to reimburse the States that have turned on their State billing system and to assure a backup system is no longer needed;

-- Continuing the process of problem-solving and improvement -- guided by the lessons we've learned

As the New York Times noted in 1966 when Medicare debuted, "This great new experiment must be given ample time to get over its growing pains."7 CMS is confident that we too will overcome our "growing pains" as we continue to address the challenges set before us implementing the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. We are especially encouraged by the latest figures demonstrating that the projected costs of the new benefit are less than we had anticipated. I would be happy to answer your questions.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 9, 2006


 



5.    THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “EDUCATION NOTES,” February 6, 2006, (Part One)

 

23 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2006 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

 

February 6, 2006 Monday 

SECOND EDITION

 

SECTION: METRO; Pg. 6B

 

LENGTH: 1131 words

 

HEADLINE: EDUCATION NOTES

 

BODY:

TAKE NOTE

Methodist bishop to

receive Perkins award

Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology will honor Bishop Janice Riggle Huie with its 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award. Bishop Huie earned her master's of theology degree from Perkins in 1973 and is the bishop of the Houston area of the United Methodist Church. Dean William B. Lawrence will present the award at a luncheon Tuesday during the annual Ministers Week on the SMU campus.

McNair scholars will

present research at UNT

About 150 Ronald E. McNair scholars from across the nation will present their research Feb. 17-19 at the University of North Texas' eighth annual Texas National McNair Scholars Research Conference, at the Radisson Hotel, 2211 Interstate 35E, in Denton. The scholarships benefit low-income, first-generation college students. The conference costs $175, including meals and conference materials. For information, contact Judy Morris, director of the McNair program, at 940-565-2973 or jmorris@unt.edu or Diana Elrod, academic and research coordinator of the McNair program, at 940-565-4819 or di anae@unt.edu.

Texas retailer fund gives

aid for college program

The Texas Retailers Education Foundation has given $250,000 to the TEXAS Grant program through the College for All Texans Foundation. This donation marks the first private sector donation to the financial aid program.

TWU groups to present

2006 Founders' Award

Lillian Moore Bradshaw and the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation are the recipients of the 2006 Founders' Award presented by Texas Woman's University, the TWU Foundation and the Former Students Association of TWU.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 17 in Hubbard Hall on TWU's Denton campus. Tickets for the event are $25 per person. Patron seats are available for $60. Benefactor tables for eight are available for $500. Reservations are required by Wednesday and may be made by calling the TWU Office of Institutional Development at 940-898-3863.

Public Health Training

Center gets $490,000

Texas Public Health Training Center has received nearly $490,000 for an additional five years of funding from the Bureau of Health Professions of the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The center is a collaborative effort between the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health, Texas A&M University's School of Rural Public Health and the Department of State Health Services.

THINGS TO DO

Bloomberg to offer tips

on unique proposals

University of Texas at Arlington alumnus and consultant Michael Bloomberg will share tips on making unique marriage proposals at a free program called "Exclusive Engagement," from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the sixth floor of UTA's Central Library, 702 Planetarium Place. For information, call 817-272-2963, or visit www.uta.edu/excel.

Program in Spanish set

on applying to college

A free program Saturday, "Las Llaves del Exito," which means "The Keys to Success" in Spanish, will help Dallas-area high school juniors and seniors and their parents learn about applying to college. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road in Dallas.

Students will learn how to fill out college applications and financial aid forms, prepare for the SAT and ACT tests and more. Bilingual volunteers will be available to help parents of seniors with their 2006 federal income tax return, which will enable them to complete their students' FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Lunch will be provided. For more information, call 972-925-3970 or Perla Molina at 214-860-2691. The event is sponsored by the Dallas County Community College District, the Dallas Independent School District and the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Wisconsin poet to join

UTA faculty jazz concert

Wisconsin poet Timothy Young joins the University of Texas at Arlington Faculty Jazz Quartet for a free evening of music and poetry at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Irons Recital Hall, Fine Arts Building, 700 W. Greek Row. For details, contact Dan Cavanagh at cavanagh@uta.edu.

UTA Africa Program

celebrates black history

The Africa Program at the University of Texas at Arlington will celebrate Black History Month with a free student symposium from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Rosebud Theatre, E.H. Hereford University Center, 300 W. First St. The symposium, "Africans and African-Americans in the 21st Century," will feature a panel of undergraduate and graduate students. For information, call 817-272-5302. For more information about the Africa Program, visit www.uta.edu/africa program.

UTA professor to discuss

training for Olympics

University of Texas at Arlington assistant kinesiology professor Cindy Trowbridge will present her experience as an Olympic athletic trainer in a free seminar today at noon in room 303 of the Physical Education Building, 801 Greek Row Drive. Dr. Trowbridge is a certified athletic trainer for the U.S. Olympic Committee with the women's bobsled team. For information, contact Dr. Barry McKeown in the department of kinesiology at 817-272-3127.

ACHIEVERS

UTA receives grant for

Katrina evacuee study

The School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington has received a $164,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are helping 12-to 16-year-old Katrina evacuees to adjust. Associate professor Edith Barrett and assistant professor Maria Martinez-Cosio have teamed with assistant professor Carrie Ausbrooks to work on the project, which will focus on school, parental and community support, and individual social and economic characteristics.

IN DISD

'Games of the week'

to be shown on cable

The Dallas Independent School District athletics department will begin televising basketball and football "games of the week" in an effort to expand viewing and draw community support for the teams.

The first basketball game, which is a doubleheader, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m., Tuesday on Channel 9B analog cable and on Channel 69 digital cable. The H. Grady Spruce High School girls' and boys' varsity basketball teams will be hosting the Lincoln High School girls' and boys' basketball teams.

All games of the week will be prerecorded and then aired each Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. District football games of the week will begin airing in fall 2006.

Visit www.dallasisd.org for more information on the district.

On the Web

Visit www.DallasNews.com/education/ for recent education coverage from The Dallas Morning News. The site also contains a number of Web-only items, useful education links and a printer-friendly version of the special section, Navigating Your School.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 6, 2006


 



6.    THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “EDUCATION NOTES,” February 6, 2006, (Part Two)

25 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2006 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

 

February 6, 2006 Monday 

NORTH EDITION

 

SECTION: METRO; Pg. 8B

 

LENGTH: 1131 words

 

HEADLINE: EDUCATION NOTES

 

BODY:

TAKE NOTE

Methodist bishop to get

Perkins alumni award

Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology will honor Bishop Janice Riggle Huie with its 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award. Bishop Huie earned her master's of theology degree from Perkins in 1973 and is the bishop of the Houston area of the United Methodist Church. Dean William B. Lawrence will present the award at a luncheon Tuesday during the annual Ministers Week on the SMU campus.

McNair scholars will

present research at UNT

About 150 Ronald E. McNair scholars from across the nation will present their research Feb. 17 to 19 at the University of North Texas' eighth annual Texas National McNair Scholars Research Conference at the Radisson Hotel, 2211 Interstate 35E in Denton. The scholarships benefit low-income, first-generation college students. The conference costs $175, including meals and conference materials. For information, contact Judy Morris, director of the McNair program, at 940-565-2973 or jmorris@unt.edu, or Diana Elrod, academic and research coordinator of the McNair program, at 940-565-4819 or dianae@unt.edu.

TWU groups to present

2006 Founders' Award

Lillian Moore Bradshaw and the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation are the recipients of the 2006 Founders' Award, presented by Texas Woman's University, the TWU Foundation and the Former Students Association of TWU.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 17 in Hubbard Hall on TWU's Denton campus. Tickets for the event are $25 per person. Patron seats are available for $60. Benefactor tables for eight are available for $500. Reservations are required by Wednesday and may be made by calling the TWU Office of Institutional Development at 940-898-3863.

Public Health Training

Center gets $490,000

Texas Public Health Training Center has received nearly $490,000 for an additional five years of funding from the Bureau of Health Professions of the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The center is a collaborative effort between the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, the University of Texas School of Public Health, Texas A&M University's School of Rural Public Health and the Department of State Health Services.

Texas retailer fund gives

aid for college program

The Texas Retailers Education Foundation has given $250,000 to the TEXAS Grant program through the College for All Texans Foundation. This donation marks the first private-sector donation to the financial aid program.

THINGS TO DO

UTA alum to offer tips

on marriage proposals

University of Texas at Arlington alumnus and consultant Michael Bloomberg will share tips on making unique marriage proposals at a free program called "Exclusive Engagement," from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the sixth floor of UTA's Central Library, 702 Planetarium Place. For information, call 817-272-2963 or visit www.uta.edu/excel.

UTA professor to discuss

training for Olympics

University of Texas at Arlington assistant kinesiology professor Cindy Trowbridge will present her experience as an Olympic athletic trainer in a free seminar at noon today in Room 303 of the Physical Education Building, 801 Greek Row Drive. Dr. Trowbridge is a certified athletic trainer for the U.S. Olympic Committee with the women's bobsled team. For information, contact Dr. Barry McKeown in the department of kinesiology at 817-272-3127.

Program on applying to

college will be in Spanish

A free program Saturday, "Las Llaves del Exito," which means "The Keys to Success" in Spanish, will help Dallas-area high school juniors and seniors and their parents learn about applying to college. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road in Dallas.

Students will learn how to fill out college applications and financial aid forms, prepare for the SAT and ACT tests, and more. Bilingual volunteers will be available to help parents of seniors with their 2006 federal income tax return, which will enable them to complete their students' FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Lunch will be provided. For more information, call 972-925-3970 or Perla Molina at 214-860-2691. The event is sponsored by the Dallas County Community College District, the Dallas Independent School District and the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Wisconsin poet to join

UTA faculty jazz concert

Wisconsin poet Timothy Young joins the University of Texas at Arlington Faculty Jazz Quartet for a free evening of music and poetry at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Irons Recital Hall, Fine Arts Building, 700 W. Greek Row. For details, contact Dan Cavanagh at cavanagh@uta.edu.

UTA Africa Program

celebrates black history

The Africa Program at the University of Texas at Arlington will celebrate Black History Month with a free student symposium from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Rosebud Theatre, E.H. Hereford University Center, 300 W. First St. The symposium, "Africans and African-Americans in the 21st Century," will feature a panel of undergraduate and graduate students. For information, call 817-272-5302. For more information about the Africa Program, visit www.uta.edu/africaprogram.

ACHIEVERS

UTA receives grant for

Katrina evacuee study

The School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington has received a $164,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are helping 12- to 16-year-old Katrina evacuees to adjust. Associate professor Edith Barrett and assistant professor Maria Martinez-Cosio have teamed with assistant professor Carrie Ausbrooks to work on the project, which will focus on school, parental and community support, and individual social and economic characteristics.

IN DISD

'Games of the week'

to be shown on cable

The Dallas Independent School District athletics department will begin televising basketball and football "games of the week" in an effort to expand viewing and draw community support for the teams.

The first basketball game, which is a doubleheader, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m., Tuesday on Channel 9B analog cable and on Channel 69 digital cable. The H. Grady Spruce High School girls' and boys' varsity basketball teams will be hosting the Lincoln High School girls' and boys' basketball teams.

All games of the week will be recorded and then aired each Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. District football games of the week will begin airing in fall 2006.

Visit www.dallasisd.org for more information on the district.

On the Web

Visit www.dallasnews.com/ education/ for recent education coverage from The Dallas Morning News. The site also contains a number of Web-only items, useful education links and a printer-friendly version of the special section Navigating Your School.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 6, 2006


 



7.    The Houston Chronicle, “School grants for evacuees may fall short of promises; Districts in 49 states have asked for their slice of a $645 million pie,” February 4, 2006

 

39 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2006 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company

All Rights Reserved

The Houston Chronicle

 

February 4, 2006 Saturday 

3 STAR EDITION

 

SECTION: B; Pg. 1 Metfront

 

LENGTH: 602 words

 

HEADLINE: School grants for evacuees may fall short of promises;

Districts in 49 states have asked for their slice of a $645 million pie

 

BYLINE: JENNIFER RADCLIFFE, Staff

 

BODY:

Texas schools that took in Hurricane Katrina evacuees can expect some federal relief money by month's end, but the checks might not be for the full $6,000-per-student annual rate touted by Congress, federal officials cautioned Friday.

The Hurricane Recovery Education Act earmarked $645 million to help public and private campuses that absorbed displaced students. School leaders were told they'd get $6,000 a year for each regular education student and $7,500 a year for each special-education student they enrolled.

"The caveat to that is if the secretary doesn't have enough to make the payments, the secretary will proportionally reduce the payments," said Chad Colby, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education. "That hasn't been decided yet. We're waiting to see the students that we get."

Depending on the number of special-education students reported, there's money for roughly 100,000 students. Federal government officials hope to have an exact count by Monday.

Every state but Hawaii has asked for money.

Payments may be reduced

Texas' application - which includes displaced students now attending school in 350 school districts - claimed 43,919 on Dec. 1.

Officials in the Houston Independent School District, which enrolled the largest percent of those children, said they understand that the per-student payments may need to be reduced.

"There's nothing we can do about that," HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said. "There's a finite amount of money. That's a fact of life."

The district spends about $180,000 a day educating the roughly 5,300 Katrina evacuees still enrolled, Abbott said.

Class-size waivers

Partly because of the displaced students, Houston will ask the Texas Education Agency for 732 waivers for classrooms from kindergarten through fourth grade that exceed the state's class size cap of 22 students. That's nearly a quarter of all classrooms at those grade levels. Because of newly hired teachers, extra portable classrooms and student transfers, that number is down from the 933 overcrowded elementary classrooms that HISD had in October, when evacuee enrollment exceeded 6,000 students, Abbott said.

The district's west, central and south regions received the largest concentration of those students from Louisiana.

At Walnut Bend Elementary School, which enrolled more evacuees than any other elementary school in the city, 16 of 30 kindergarten- through fourth-grade classrooms have more than 22 students.

At Briargrove Elementary in west Houston, 31 of 36 rooms need class-size waivers.

`Mass migration'

"America has never seen this kind of mass migration in its history," HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said in a prepared statement.

"We've worked hard to serve the children who lost their homes in the hurricanes, and we are proud of the work that our teachers and administrators have done to help these children," he said. "But it has been a particular challenge in some areas of the city because of the rapid increases in enrollments."

While the district has used class-size waivers for more than a decade, the number of HISD classrooms considered overcrowded this month is up 34 percent from last February.

It's down substantially from five years ago, however, when the district had to ask for 1,052 waivers, Abbott said.

CROWDED CLASSROOMS

HISD will seek a waiver for 732 kindergarten- through fourth-grade classrooms with more than 22 students. Percentage of overcrowded classes in each region:

West: 34 percent (322 of 959 classes)

Central: 27 percent (132 of 498 classes)

South: 26 percent (114 of 438 classes)

North: 14 percent (96 of 671 classes)

East: 11 percent (68 of 602 classes)

 

NOTES: jennifer.radcliffe@chron.com

 

LOAD-DATE: February 4, 2006


 



8.    Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, “IMPLEMENTING OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT,” February 2, 2006

 

45 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

Copyright 2006 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

 

February 2, 2006 Thursday

 

SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY

 

LENGTH: 10224 words

 

COMMITTEE: SENATE SPECIAL AGING

 

HEADLINE: IMPLEMENTING OF MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT

 

TESTIMONY-BY: MARK B. MCCLELLAN, ADMINISTRATOR

 

AFFILIATION: CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES

 

BODY:

Statement of Mark B. McClellan Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Committee on Senate Special Aging

February 2, 2006

Chairman Smith, Senator Kohl, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. While millions of people with Medicare are now using their new drug coverage effectively, I also want to focus on the work we are doing around the clock to make sure every beneficiary gets the full benefit of their drug coverage.

New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Delivers Drugs and Savings to Millions Prescription drugs are a critical component of 21st Century medicine, but until recently the Medicare program had never included an outpatient prescription drug benefit. Now, Medicare's new prescription drug benefit provides seniors and people with disabilities with comprehensive prescription drug coverage, the most significant improvement to senior health care in 40 years. Millions of seniors and people with disabilities are already using this benefit to save money, stay healthy, and gain peace of mind. Since the new prescription drug benefit began January 1, 2006, enrollment is off to a strong start. As of mid- January, nearly 24 million people with Medicare now have prescription drug coverage and tens of thousands are enrolling every day. Pharmacists across the nation are filling a million prescriptions each day for people with Medicare. Nationwide, pharmacists are processing more than 40,000 Medicare prescriptions an hour during peak hours as hundreds of thousands of people with Medicare are now getting help with their drug costs each day. In the first 10 days, over three million prescriptions were dispensed to Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes. And pharmacists across the country are reporting to CMS that people who did not have good coverage previously are now no longer struggling with their drug costs. For example, one pharmacist told us how, for the first time, he didn't have to advise one of his patients with Medicaid about which prescription he couldn't fill completely because of the coverage limits.

And many reports from people who are getting their drugs under the new prescription drug benefit are very positive. One man wrote, "My drug bill went from $154.28 per month to $34 for the same drugs. That is a 78% savings! I chose a program that had no deductible so I would not have to wait to spend $250. After paying the monthly fee of $39.50, my savings per month is 52.7%. Tell me I didn't get a good deal. . ."1

Enrollment Status Update

In the last 30 days more than 2.6 million people have signed up for the new stand-alone prescription drug coverage. This number is on top of the 1 million who enrolled in stand-alone plans in the first 30 days of the initial enrollment period. An additional 4.5 million individuals, including 600,000 people who qualify for Medicare and also for full benefits under Medicaid, i.e., full benefit dual eligible individuals, are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Overall, about 6.2 million full benefit dual eligible individuals, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, have transitioned to Medicare prescription drug coverage. In addition, Medicare's retiree drug subsidy will reimburse a portion of drug costs incurred by at least 6.4 million retirees for 2006. Also, an estimated 1 million retirees are in employer- or union-sponsored coverage that incorporates or supplements Medicare's coverage. Another estimated 500,000 retirees are continuing in other employer or union coverage. An additional 3.1 million Medicare eligible retirees are receiving their coverage through TRICARE for Life or a Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.

CMS Works to Resolve Start-up Challenges

We are fully focused on resolving the difficulties that some beneficiaries have faced in using their coverage initially, particularly a group of people with both Medicare and Medicaid. Adding a benefit as significant as the new Medicare prescription drug program, involves some start-up challenges. CMS recognizes the enormity of this transition and has been working intensively for many months with partners in and out of government, including States, plans, pharmacists, advocates, and other key partners to ensure the transition process is as smooth as possible for people with Medicare and all of our partners. We have improved our data system, particularly helping the dual eligible population, have strengthened our 1-800-MEDICARE call centers, instructed plans on ways to better serve both beneficiaries and pharmacists, and have dedicated greater CMS resources to addressing pharmacists' needs and enrollee concerns.

Despite these efforts, we are very concerned that some people with Medicare have had difficulty in using their drug coverage for the first time. These problems generally do not occur for people who enrolled far enough ahead of using their coverage to get their drug benefit card, and many of these initial problems have been straightforward to resolve. For example, one woman stated on January 10, 2006 that she did not immediately receive her plan card although her husband received his from the same plan after enrolling at the same time. When she contacted the plan, the problem was quickly resolved. After getting her prescriptions filled, she reported, "I normally spend $538 for a three-month supply of my drugs. But this time it cost only $278. And these weren't even generic drugs." After people use the system once, these initial problems that some beneficiaries have faced with using their coverage generally do not recur.

We have been most concerned about helping beneficiaries who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid to use their new benefit. While the vast majority of the more than 6 million dual eligible individuals have already begun to use their drug coverage, certain of these dual eligible individuals have had initial difficulties. In particular, a fraction of a potential universe of a few hundred thousand dual eligible beneficiaries who switched plans, particularly near the end of the year, did not have complete information available on their coverage with their new plan in early January. In addition, information transfers among states, CMS, and plans did not occur perfectly for all beneficiaries. This group is an extremely important population and CMS is committed to ensuring they receive their needed prescription drugs. Many steps are now in place to ensure this happens. In addition some states have taken steps to further support the CMS systems.

One major contributing factor to CMS' challenge is that the onset of the benefit affected many millions of people with Medicare simultaneously at the beginning of January, including millions of people who enrolled or switched plans near the end of December. In addition, CMS worked with numerous partners leading up to the start of the drug benefit to educate beneficiaries and their caregivers about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. We, along with the plans, pharmacists, States, and hundreds of other partners, helped people understand how to make decisions about their prescription drug coverage based on cost, coverage and convenience.

As a result of our successful outreach efforts, we experienced a substantial surge in enrollment at the end of the year and many dual eligible individuals electing to change plans close to December 31, 2005. As shown in Figure 2, both visitors to the prescription drug plan on-line enrollment center and enrollments rose steadily throughout December and peaked at the end of the month with over 100,000 enrollments on both December 29 and 30, 2005. CMS continues to see tens of thousands of new enrollments daily.

With the initial implementation of the drug benefit, our start up challenges fall into several key categories including new systems and data transactions issues, customer service, pharmacy support, and State issues. We have worked closely with the plans and our other partners to reconcile specific plan and enrollment information for dual eligible individuals who did not have complete information available with their plan. We are reviewing systems; continuing pharmacist support, education and outreach; conducting casework around the country; and helping dual eligible individuals and long-term care residents. CMS is committed to making sure that every person with Medicare gets the medications he/she needs. We are seeing improvements on a daily basis as more people with Medicare receive their enrollment confirmations and their personal information is available in the database systems, which allows them to easily fill their prescriptions.

CMS Plans for Implementation of Drug Coverage on January 1, 2006 for Individuals Eligible for Both Medicare and Medicaid

After passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA) in December 2003, CMS began planning for implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It has been a process involving many steps and partners to get to where we are today. A major focus of this preparation was to provide for the transition of millions of dual eligible individuals who are required to get their prescription drugs through a Medicare drug plan beginning January 1, 2006. Previously, state Medicaid programs provided prescription drug coverage to the dual eligible population.

CMS Worked With States

Since both CMS and the States are responsible for administering benefits for the dual eligible individuals, CMS is committed to working with States on an ongoing and collaborative basis. Both CMS and the States are working to ensure the start up challenges for current dual eligible individuals are addressed. This effort has required an unprecedented level of collaboration between the States and Federal government. This work commenced in August 2004 through the State Issues Workgroup, which included representatives from State Medicaid Agencies, the Social Security Administration, and CMS.

CMS also has worked with States through various workgroups to assure that States report and CMS knows of every dual eligible beneficiary in the country undergoing this transition from Medicaid to Medicare drug coverage. In addition the CMS and State workgroups collaborated to

--develop an efficient and effective low-income application process for individuals who are not dual eligible;

--train, educate, and conduct outreach in a coordinated fashion;

--assure a successful process is in place to auto-enroll every dual eligible beneficiary who does not join a Medicare prescription drug plan on his or her own;

--develop strategies for transitioning dual eligible individuals from Medicaid to Medicare while also assuring coordination of care; and

--assure that the calculation of the phase down State contribution is accurate.

In addition to the ongoing efforts of the State Issues Workgroup, CMS engaged the States in a series of summits, conference calls, and workshops to discuss and address implementation issues associated with the MMA. These gatherings include monthly all- State conference calls; State Pharmacy Assistance Program (SPAP) Workgroup conference calls; and conferences hosted by organizations representing the States including the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Council of State Governments. In addition, CMS provided States with:

--enrollment information for full-benefit dual eligible individuals including their assigned plans;

--comparative information on the specific Medicare prescription drug plans including formularies and pharmacy networks that are serving each state; and

--targeted educational and outreach materials.

Finally, CMS has worked diligently with States to ensure that they appropriately identify their full benefit dual eligible individuals. CMS validated the information that States reported to minimize reporting errors, mistakes, and omissions that may affect the identification of the States' dual eligible residents. These validation data matches showed match rates of over 99% for all States, according to an independent evaluation completed in the fall of 2005.

CMS Automatically Enrolled Dual Eligible Individuals into Plans

To ensure that there was no lapse in prescription drug coverage for full benefit dual eligible individuals, CMS worked diligently to make sure they were enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan before January 1, 2006. In November 2005, any individual who was a dual eligible for even one month, beginning in March 2005, was automatically enrolled in a plan. CMS understood that the dual eligible population is typically the hardest to reach and preparation was necessary. To that end, CMS sent letters in May to all dual eligible individuals to inform them of their upcoming auto-enrollment into a prescription drug plan. Then, in the fall, CMS sent these individuals a letter that informed them of their new plan and the option to choose another plan if they were not satisfied with the auto assignment. In addition to the letters, individuals can call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out the plan in which they have been auto-enrolled.

Also, while other individuals generally have the opportunity to change plans only at the end of the calendar year, dual eligible individuals have the opportunity to change plans at any time. This flexibility ensures continuity of care when Medicaid prescription drug coverage ends, while also allowing them to select a plan that best meets their needs.

CMS also has worked with States to identify and auto-enroll individuals who are about to become full-benefit dual eligible prior to the end of their Medicaid drug coverage to ensure a seamless transition on an on-going basis. This includes those Medicaid individuals who will age into Medicare or who will reach the end of the 24-month Medicare disability waiting period.

CMS Developed New and Enhanced Information Technology Systems for the Prescription Drug Benefit

Information technology (IT) systems played a crucial role in ensuring the prescription drug benefit could be implemented January 1, 2006. Planning for the information technology to support the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit began in 2004 with CMS identifying the key functions affected by the new law and beginning development of a large- scale, integrated computer system. CMS ensured that more than one dozen critical systems development efforts were implemented in time to meet MMA-legislated deadlines. In conjunction with its business partners, CMS developed innovative solutions and leveraged existing business and systems relationships, such as using the existing pharmacy transaction processing network, to assist with the coordination of the various prescription drug benefit plans covering people with Medicare.

Staff created and modified a variety of complex, integrated systems that currently interact with the private and public sectors to implement the new benefits. These IT systems support the key critical business processes that CMS uses to manage the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit programs. The integrated system provides CMS with the ability, among other things, to enroll people with Medicare into prescription drug plans, make payments to plans, and ensure that beneficiaries receive their drug coverage. The integrated information technology system also allows CMS to pay the Retiree Drug Subsidy to approved plan sponsors and track True-Out-of-Pocket Expenses (TrOOP) for people with Medicare. In addition, the updated systems ensure the correct premium amount is either paid directly to the plan or provided to the Social Security Administration to withhold from a beneficiary's Social Security check. Through contracts with telecommunications clearinghouses that currently service the majority of retail pharmacies, the pharmacies will be able to perform real-time eligibility determinations and will be able to route claims to primary, and if applicable, secondary plans for proper adjudication to accurately coordinate benefits. The new and modified systems also were designed to ensure only authorized individuals have access to Medicare information.

CMS worked closely with industry experts to implement nine system modules. Implementation included application development and integration efforts, system engineering activities, and validation and testing. In order to meet the deadlines, CMS worked creatively and collaboratively to compress what would ordinarily be an 18 to 24-month systems development process. CMS ensured that the necessary computer and network capacity and capabilities were in place as the CMS IT applications came online.

These enhancements included

--providing capabilities for more than 400 new CMS business partners to connect to CMS systems over the Internet,

--providing advanced technology for secure file transfers, and

--implementing a new user id/password management system. CMS implemented backup and parallel support systems to minimize any vulnerabilities, and also oversaw the implementation of a secure, Internet-based computing environment in the CMS data center. If these systems had not come online on schedule, CMS would not be able to enroll beneficiaries or pay the health plans that are administering the new benefit. CMS set new standards for documenting requirements, program management, managing change, testing systems, and documenting and ensuring that system development life cycle reviews were undertaken.

Extensive Plan Formulary Requirements Provide Access to Needed Prescription Drugs

CMS developed a set of checks and oversight activities to ensure that prescription drug plans offer a comprehensive benefit that reflects best practices in the pharmacy industry, as well as current treatment standards. Plan formularies must recognize the special needs of particular types of people with Medicare, such as individuals with mental health issues, individuals with HIV/AIDS, individuals living in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and others who are stabilized on certain drug regimens. CMS has reviewed plan formularies and benefit structures to verify that they are in compliance with the following critical requirements. A plan's formulary must cover multiple drugs in each class with a minimum statutory requirement of at least two drugs in each approved category and class (unless only one drug is available for a particular category or class). Furthermore, CMS requires that each plan's formulary include all or substantially all drugs in each of the following key categories: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anticancer drugs, immunosuppressants, and antiretrovirals for treating HIV/AIDS. In addition, each Medicare prescription drug plan's formulary was developed and reviewed by the plan's pharmacy and therapeutics committee. Each formulary must be consistent with widely used industry best practices. Furthermore, CMS compared the prescription drug plans' use of benefit management tools to the way these tools are used in existing drug plans to ensure they are being applied in a clinically appropriate fashion. Prescription drug plan formularies typically include upwards of 80 percent of the 100 most commonly used drugs.

CMS has developed exceptions procedures designed to ensure that enrollees receive prompt decisions regarding whether medications are medically necessary. For example, if the enrollee is requesting coverage of a non-formulary drug, the drug may be covered if the prescribing physician determines that all of the drugs on the formulary would not be as effective as the non- formulary drug or would have adverse effects for the enrollee, or both. The plan would have to review the physician's determination and must make its decision as expeditiously as the enrollee's health condition requires after it receives the request, but no later than 24 hours for an expedited coverage determination or 72 hours for a standard coverage determination.

CMS Required Plans to Have a Transition Process for Dual Eligible Individuals

CMS required each Medicare prescription drug plan to establish an appropriate transition plan for all new enrollees with Medicaid. All of the transition plans now include a minimum 30-day one-time fill of any prescription drug excluded from the plan's formulary in order to accommodate situations in which a non-formulary prescription has previously been filled at a participating pharmacy. Each transition plan identifies the plan sponsor's method of educating both people with Medicare and providers to ensure a safe and complete accommodation of an individual's medical needs with the plan's formulary. Additionally, CMS recommends that transition plans address unanticipated enrollee transitions when individuals need to change treatment settings due to a change in their level of care.

CMS Worked With Plans to Ensure a Smooth Transition in Long Term Care Facilities

CMS is committed to ensuring that people with Medicare in long- term care (LTC) facilities continue to receive the medications and pharmacy services they need under the new Medicare prescription drug coverage without interruption.

There are 1.6 million people with Medicare who are residents in 15,800 nursing homes throughout the nation. The majority of nursing home residents are dual eligible individuals. Almost half of all nursing home residents have some or all of their stays covered under Medicare Part A. Individuals in LTC facilities represent a unique and vulnerable population because they have cognitive and/or functional impairments. This population typically has multiple co-morbidities, the highest utilization of drugs, with an average of nine medications per day, and the highest spending for prescription drugs compared to other people with Medicare.

In March 2005, CMS issued guidance for the implementation of CMS requirements regarding pharmacies that provide products and services to individuals in LTC facilities. This guidance addressed pharmacy performance and service criteria, convenient access standards, formulary considerations, and other beneficiary protections that prescription drug plans should consider as they develop their prescription drug benefit offerings for people with Medicare in LTC facilities.

Auto-enrollment of Individuals in LTC

Cognitively impaired individuals represent a particularly difficult group to educate about their enrollment options. Much of this population, specifically dual eligible individuals, was auto-enrolled into the new prescription drug benefit. CMS encouraged nursing homes to determine into which plans their residents were auto-enrolled prior to January 1, 2006. As part of this initiative, CMS established dedicated call lines and overnight mail options to allow nursing homes to fax and mail beneficiary information to CMS customer service representatives (CSRs). This strategy enabled CMS to help nursing homes identify the plans for more than 500,000 residents. Pharmacists used the electronic eligibility and enrollment verification (E1) system to identify the remainder. By notifying plans that their enrollees reside in nursing homes, CMS is ensuring nursing home residents have access to Medicare drug coverage for no premiums and no copays.

Performance and Service Criteria for Pharmacies Providing LTC Service

To address the unique and diverse needs of people with Medicare in LTC, CMS developed minimum performance and service criteria for pharmacies providing LTC service, based on widely used best practices in the market today and with input from external stakeholders. These criteria address:

--Comprehensive inventory and inventory capacity

--Pharmacy operations and prescription orders

--Special packaging of medicines

--IV medications

--Compounding and alternative forms of drug composition

--Pharmacist on-call service

--Delivery service

--Emergency boxes

--Emergency log books

--Miscellaneous reports, forms and prescription ordering supplies

For example, network LTC pharmacies (NLTCPs) must have the capacity to provide specific drugs in unit of use packaging, bingo cards, cassettes, unit dose or other special packaging commonly required by LTC facilities. NLTCPs must have access to or arrangements with a vendor to furnish supplies and equipment including but not limited to labels, auxiliary labels, and packing machines for furnishing drugs in such special packaging required by the LTC setting. Additionally, NLTCPs must provide on- call, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service with a qualified pharmacist available for handling calls after hours and must have medication dispensing capability available for emergencies, holidays and after hours of normal operations.

Prescription Drug Plan Formularies for LTC residents

In the long term care setting, the Medicare prescription drug plan formularies are in general more robust than State preferred drug lists or commercial formularies. Plans must accommodate within a single formulary structure the needs of long term care residents by providing coverage for all medically necessary medications at all levels of care. Coverage of all medically necessary medications may include, but is not limited to, alternative dosage forms such as liquids that can be administered through feeding tubes, intravenous medications, or intramuscular injections.

CMS recommended nursing homes include a 90 to 180 day transition period. The vast majority of plans are providing 90 day transition periods with many offering the option of extending to180 days. However, the LTC emergency first fill policy is unique to this setting and continues throughout the entire year for any off-formulary prescription written. In addition, plans are required to cover drugs as written during the 7 to 14 days allowed for initial exceptions and appeals process.

CMS Provides Education Regarding LTC Pharmacy Requirements

Prior to the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, CMS conducted extensive outreach and education to ensure LTC facilities, pharmacies and other stakeholders were informed about requirements for delivering services under the benefit. CMS established a working group consisting of representatives from the American Health Care Association, American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, American Medical Directors Association, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, National Center for Assisted Living, Assisted Living Federation of America, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services that assisted CMS over an eight month period in 2005. CMS also provided and continues to provide instruction through trade association newsletters, fiscal intermediary newsletters and conferences. In addition, CMS developed electronic messages that are shown to facilities each time they enter data on the Minimum Data Set (MDS) - part of the federally mandated process that provides a comprehensive clinical assessment of all residents in Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes. Education included, for example, a three pronged approach for ensuring that nursing home residents who spend down the Medicare simultaneously apply for Medicaid and the low income subsidy and enroll in a PDP to maximize their prescription drug benefits. This outreach also included numerous Open Door Forums, in which all stakeholders were invited to participate so CMS could share the outcomes of critical policy and procedural decisions and to solicit feedback on areas of concern.

CMS Educated and Coordinated Outreach Efforts for Pharmacies

Partnerships: CMS worked extensively with pharmacy industry leaders to educate and motivate the pharmacist community about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Specifically, we partnered with chain and independent pharmacies in an education and outreach program for the low-income subsidy, which reached over 30,000 stores. CMS participated in 24 town hall events hosted by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). These events provided a prescription drug benefit overview to independent pharmacists and a question and answer session following each event. In total, over 6,500 pharmacists participated in this program. Direct Communications: CMS made extensive efforts to directly reach pharmacists in preparation for January 1, 2006. CMS created the Medicare Rx Update as a periodic update to pharmacists to ensure they are well informed about the details of the Medicare prescription drug benefit implementation. CMS distributed the Rx Updates through the internet to directly reach practicing pharmacists with highlights and clarifications about implementation issues. Since its inception in May 2005, CMS has sent 25 Rx Updates to the pharmacy community addressing topics including the pharmacists' role with the low income subsidy, marketing guidelines, the prescription drug plan compare tool, and the true-out-of-pocket (TrOOP) facilitator. With thousands of subscribers and because State and national organizations distribute the Update as well, these bulletins have gone a long way toward educating the pharmacy community about the procedures related to the new benefit.

CMS also created and maintains a website (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/Pharmacy/ ) specifically for pharmacists. In addition to the Medicare Rx Updates, the pharmacist website contains informative prescription drug benefit guidance, links to training materials, information for special practice pharmacies, and more.

CMS' pharmacist outreach team, which includes our regional pharmacists, has conducted the most targeted personal outreach. CMS' central office pharmacy team, which includes 21 pharmacists, as well as the pharmacists and staff from CMS' 10 regional offices, have traveled the country educating pharmacists in all practice settings about the new benefit. The pharmacists have presented at hundreds of events and gatherings reaching tens of thousands of pharmacists.

Furthermore, CMS created a forum known as the Pharmacy Information Exchange, a periodic open phone town hall style meeting. Hundreds of pharmacists attended calls hosted by CMS' pharmacists. These calls have enabled CMS to present on hot topics, answer many questions and identify new issues from the community. Finally, CMS has developed two pharmacist-specific continuing education programs that were distributed through the on-line arm of Drug Topics, the magazine dedicated to the profession of pharmacy, and through Kansas University, respectively.

Plans to Address Pharmacy Operational Issues: Finally, as January 1, 2006 approached, CMS finalized a comprehensive plan for further pharmacist training, including materials targeted to explain technical details of the TrOOP facilitation process, Medicare Part B versus Part D coverage, out-of-network policies for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the point-of-sale facilitated enrollment process for dual eligible individuals, and more. CMS is working directly with a wide range of pharmacy organizations, identifying operational questions for pharmacists and developing dynamic action plans on how to anticipate problems and, to the extent that we can, address them in advance. In preparation for the first days of the benefit, CMS engaged the pharmacy community in a virtual "war room" so that the Agency could work directly with the industry to provide direct assistance for any issues that arose in the early days of implementation.

CMS Worked With Physicians

An important part of CMS' outreach and education effort included the physician community. Throughout 2005, CMS medical officers spoke to 24 physician specialty groups about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, transition policies and formulary exceptions and appeals. CMS has held weekly telephone question and answer calls for physicians, other prescribers, and their office staff in anticipation of the new drug benefit. The first call had 1,300 callers and is averaging about 500 callers a week now. CMS has had a similar call for mental health providers and a call focused specifically on distinguishing between coverage for Part B and Part D prescription drugs. In addition, CMS participates in the AMA workgroup, which has been meeting since November to discuss physician issues and suggest improvements and refinements.

Point-of-Sale System Facilitates Enrollment

CMS is making its best effort to identify and auto-enroll dual eligible individuals prior to the effective date of their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage eligibility. However, it is possible that some individuals may go to pharmacies before they have been auto-enrolled in a prescription drug plan. For this reason, in anticipation of the shift from the Medicaid to the Medicare program of dual eligible individuals' drug benefits, CMS has developed a process for a point-of-sale interaction to ensure these individuals experience no gap in coverage. CMS contracted with WellPoint, a national prescription drug plan to provide prescriptions and enrollment at the pharmacy point-of- sale (POS). The relationship with WellPoint is specifically designed to ensure that pharmacists can fill prescriptions and bill WellPoint for full benefit dual eligible individuals who had not been previously enrolled in a new Medicare prescription drug plan. Beneficiaries, who present at a pharmacy with evidence of both Medicaid and Medicare eligibility, but without current enrollment in a prescription drug plan, can leave the pharmacy with a filled prescription and the claim for their medication submitted to a single account for payment. A CMS contractor will immediately follow up to validate eligibility and facilitate enrollment of the full-benefit dual eligible individual into a prescription drug plan. As of early January, over 10,000 dual eligible individuals have received their prescriptions through the Wellpoint point-of-sale system. Many of the individuals who received prescriptions through Wellpoint are members of others plans.

CMS has provided information on the WellPoint system to pharmacy associations, plans, and individual pharmacies. This information describes how the process of POS-facilitated enrollment starts at the pharmacy with the pharmacist verifying dual eligibility and billing a special Wellpoint account in order to ensure that the individual with Medicare receives the prescription.

CMS Takes Action to Ensure Timely Receipt of Prescription Drugs after Start of Benefit Despite the best efforts of everyone involved in the new program, there is a group that potentially included a few hundred thousand dually eligible individuals who had difficulty when they initially used their drug coverage. These individuals were described previously. In addition, CMS has taken steps to address other issues that have arisen with the implementation of the drug benefit.

CMS Works to Ensures Emergency Fills for Dual Eligible Individuals

CMS is working to ensure that dual eligible individuals who need emergency fills of their prescriptions receive them in a timely fashion. If any dual eligible individual needs prescriptions immediately, and other mechanisms have not worked, CMS can help them get the medicines they need. Many pharmacies are filling prescriptions for dual eligible individuals that present at the pharmacy counter when enrollment and billing information cannot be confirmed. If the individual is in an urgent situation, he or she should call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or the pharmacist can call the pharmacy helpline and tell the CMS customer service representative that a person with Medicare has an urgent situation. As described below, CMS casework staff will be alerted and help the person obtain his/her medication.

CMS Educates People with Medicare About the Timing of Selecting a Plan

CMS has informed people with Medicare about the need to allow some time between the date of enrollment and when they first attempt to fill a prescription. This provides CMS and the plans with enough time to see to it that the data systems are accurately updated in order to properly handle the filling of a prescription. Such is generally the case anytime someone enrolls in a new health insurance plan or makes changes to it, and we want people with Medicare to be aware of this situation.

Generally, if an individual newly enrolls in a plan, or switches to a different plan by the 15th of the month, their information should be available at the pharmacy by the beginning of the next month. So we have begun encouraging people with Medicare to enroll at least a few weeks before they expect to need to use their drug coverage, and to be prepared to wait several weeks to be fully entered into the system.

We are developing model language for plans to use to inform their enrollees of these facts, and will also provide those who enroll through our 1-800-MEDICARE call centers and our internet-based Plan Finder tool with a similar notice. Enrollees will also be informed that while waiting for the data systems to be appropriately modified, they may, if need be, use the acknowledgement letter sent to them by the plan when they go to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions.

CMS Supports Ongoing Success of IT Systems

To continually improve the IT systems and CMS services to the beneficiaries, plans, and pharmacies, CMS continues to work closely with the plans via system-level conference calls that occur three times a week, in addition to the twice-daily production calls that synchronize the complex operations of all systems. Also, the Agency pulled together critical resources to:

--evaluate the performance of systems,

--identify issues with the plans and pharmacies, and

--develop and implement corrective actions.

Based on these evaluations, CMS has identified, in priority order, key performance and operations issues. The resolution and implementation of the solutions is underway.

CMS has taken steps to ensure plans have the means to cross-check CMS data with plan data for improved accuracy and completeness to ensure that dual eligible individuals can be appropriately identified when they present at the pharmacy counter. On January 12, 2006 and again on January 18, 2006, CMS sent files to each plan with information about its dual eligible enrollees along with instructions on how to process these files. As these data are processed by plans, this process is substantially reducing the workload of the pharmacists and assisting the vast majority of dual eligible individuals in getting their drugs. Providing this information enables pharmacists to identify plans in which dual eligible individuals are enrolled and ensure that correct and appropriate co-payments are charged to the individual with Medicare. Furthermore, on January 30, 2006, CMS sent an additional file of low income subsidy eligible individuals, this time using an enrollment effective date of February 1, 2006. This file should provide an additional source of information for many of the plan changes that have taken place in the past couple of weeks and help plans prepare for enrollments that are effective beginning in February.

CMS also has been working with specific plans to resolve their unique issues surrounding sending and receiving data files from CMS. As a result of these efforts, dual eligible beneficiaries who had been having difficulty with correct co-payments and eligibility are now getting their prescriptions filled correctly. To ensure CMS' performance evaluation system and corrective actions are effective, CMS contracted with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as an independent reviewer to help resolve specific data translation issues with the plans, States, and pharmacies.

CMS Improves 1-800 MEDICARE Call Center to Reduce Wait Times

CMS' 1-800 MEDICARE Call Center has customer service representatives (CSRs) available to answer Medicare questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As shown in Figure 3, call volume to 1-800-MEDICARE peaked around 400,000 calls when enrollment began on November 15, 2005 and again in early to mid-January.

On average, callers have experienced wait times of less than two minutes from mid-November to mid-January, with longer waits sometimes occurring during peak call periods. CMS has increased the number of CSRs from 3,000 in June of 2004 to as many as 7,800 to handle beneficiary calls. We have also acquired additional infrastructure including telephone lines, workstations, and seats at call center sites. We have upgraded our CSR scripts by reducing redundant information, indexing scripts for quick access, and including probing questions to help the CSRs better identify the caller's concerns.

CMS has implemented a major enhancement through the use of Smart Scripts, which provide the CSRs with an easily followed path of responses to the most frequently asked questions. Smart Scripts are a new type of script that have hyperlinks built into the body of the text that when activated will take the CSR directly to related information about that subject. In addition, we have CSRs participate in the content workgroups for the actual development of scripts and job aides. CMS also has implemented a CSR feedback system and streamlined our approval process for updating the scripts in a timely manner to respond to the changing needs of our customers or to incorporate policy updates.

CMS hired and trained additional staff to exclusively use the Prescription Drug Plan Finder (PDP) tool to handle only PDP calls. All CSRs receive one week of classroom training followed by two or three additional days of practice calls, simulation, quality monitoring and follow-up coaching to ensure peak performance. CSR certification with a written examination and test calls is required prior to taking live calls. Calls are being handled on an in-bound basis and steps CMS has taken to strengthen the call centers' capabilities and reduce wait times have made it possible to address beneficiaries' concerns as they arise. Customer satisfaction surveys indicate that the bulk of callers who interact with our CSRs, 84 percent, are satisfied with their experience. They are particularly pleased with how courteous and patient the CSRs are (rated at 97 and 95 percent, respectively). These responses came not only from people with Medicare, but also friends or relatives calling on their behalf, who made up 48 percent of callers during December, 2005. CMS' Medicare website,  http://www.medicare.gov, has also been a source of useful information for people with Medicare. Since the first of the year, our frequently asked questions have been accessed more than 530,000 times. CMS has also responded to over 5,300 e-mails received through the site, with 93 percent of them being resolved satisfactorily in the first response.

CMS Works with Plans to Improve Their Customer Service

In addition to this significant strengthening of our 1-800- MEDICARE capabilities, we have issued guidance to the plans, instructing them to increase the numbers of CSRs in their own call centers and improve their abilities to immediately resolve enrollee concerns. Plans have responded and reported significant increases in the number of CSRs in their call centers.

We have also informed plans that they must comply with their transition policies so that enrollees who require a specific medications are able to obtain coverage for a one-time supply of those drugs, while they work with their physician and plan to select a new drug in the same therapeutic class, or appeal for coverage of their existing prescription. Further, plans have been required to inform their CSRs about their transition policies and empower them to permit a pharmacy to dispense these drugs.

CMS Takes Steps to Identify Areas of Concern

To address the need to capture and track complaints, CMS developed the Complaints Tracking Module (CTM). The CTM is a central repository for complaints that come in to CMS' Central Office, and ten Regional offices and the Medicare Rx Integrity Contractors through 1-800-MEDICARE or CMS directly. The CTM is designed to capture complaints from beneficiaries, providers, or plans about prescription drug plans, pharmacies, subcontractors, and providers. Because it is a web-enabled system, CTM can be accessed from off-site locations. This allows for regional and off-site staff to quickly enter information into the system. Since complaints may need to be escalated or referred across components, referral capabilities exist for this type of transfer. This provides for an efficient exchange of information, which allows for a quicker resolution and accountability, as each complaint is assigned to only one individual at a time. CMS began development of the CTM in the Fall of 2005 and refined the system in response to input from various stakeholders. The design of CTM format and content were driven from previous experience with the Drug Card, intra-agency components, and insights from the Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) Industry. CMS launched the CTM into production on October 3, 2005. Since this time, the CTM has been fully tested to accept large numbers of daily transactions simultaneously from many users across the Agency. CMS began tracking complaints in January and although this process is still in the early stages, we have seen a general decline in complaints.

CMS Provides Caseworkers for One-on-One Counseling

While millions of prescriptions are being filled for people with Medicare, CMS is very concerned about those individuals who are encountering difficulties at the pharmacy counter. This is certainly distressing for those individuals and their caregivers.

CMS has established a system to help resolve urgent issues on a case-by-case basis. CMS has hundreds of trained caseworkers who are working as rapidly as possible with individuals with Medicare and plans to resolve urgent issues to help ensure that people with Medicare get their prescriptions filled. CMS urges people with Medicare or their family members who are having difficulties to call 1-800-MEDICARE, and if necessary, their case will be forwarded to our caseworkers. Urgent cases have high priority for rapid solution.

While the number of individual cases is small in comparison to the millions of prescriptions and individuals who are successfully receiving their prescriptions, CMS is committed to ensuring that every individual receives their needed medicines, are properly identified, and are charged the appropriate co-pays in the future.

CMS Provides Dedicated Support to Pharmacists

CMS has provided a number of ways for pharmacists to obtain help in filling prescriptions for plan enrollees. If the enrollee does not have a card, pharmacists can use our eligibility system (the E1 system) to obtain information needed to fill the prescription. Pharmacists can also call plans directly, on lines dedicated for pharmacists. They can contact Medicare's own CSRs if need be, and CMS also has specially trained case workers in our regional offices who can intervene in special cases to make sure that enrollees get the medications they need.

CMS has significantly increased the capacity of the toll-free pharmacy support phone lines to help resolve issues pharmacists encounter in dispensing medications to those newly enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug plans. CMS has increased its call handling capacity at the pharmacist help line 30 fold and the line is now available 24 hours a day. We have increased the CSR staffing to support this initiative from 150 CSRs to about 4,500. The increased capacity has reduced the wait time to less than a minute for pharmacists who want to use this mode of communication for eligibility and enrollment determination.

CMS Responds to Early Technical Problems with the Eligibility and Enrollment Query System for Pharmacists

During the first week of the Medicare prescription drug program, CMS experienced some delays in response time with the new computer tool provided to pharmacists for real time enrollment and eligibility look-up. Working with our contractor, CMS has improved response time to less than one second with no delays. CMS continues to load data into this system from information obtained on individuals' recent enrollment or plan switching activity, which will help pharmacists obtain complete enrollment and billing information on more individuals when they use the E1 system at the pharmacy counter. As shown in Figure 4, CMS is seeing an overall decline in the number of times pharmacists must utilize the E1 system from a high of 1.47 million to about a half million in recent days. This reflects a more efficient and effective use of the system after CMS issued a tip sheet in early January on how best to use the system. In addition, more individuals have received appropriate plan identification information, so the need for the E1 system has declined.

In addition, pharmacists are reporting that they are experiencing improvements in their ability to query and obtain information from the E1 eligibility transaction system. One pharmacist noted on January 11, 2006, "I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that our 434 pharmacies have found the (E1) system very helpful and we have seen the system's 'integrity' improve significantly from January 2, 2006 to today."7

CMS Addresses Issues Between Plans and Pharmacies

In addition, CMS and the Medicare health plans are working to address a number of issues that will improve the efficiency of the process at the pharmacy counter and assure that all people with Medicare get the medications they need. Among the steps CMS has facilitated are: a) increasing the capacity of plan help lines; b) providing direct plan-to-pharmacist technical support; and c) streamlining the data submission and reporting procedures from plans to CMS. Additionally, on January 6, 2006, CMS sent a second letter to plans on enforcement of their own transition plans by educating their customer service representatives (CSRs) and ensuring that their data systems have the appropriate information to implement their transition plans. CMS sent two additional letters to the plans on January 13, 2006 providing further clarification on formulary transition policies and expedited processes on cost sharing for dual eligible individuals. Specifically, CMS required plans to make override information readily available to pharmacists, which will allow the correct co-payment to be charged. Should the plans' pharmacist assistance line be inaccessible, CMS can provide assistance through Medicare's 1-866 designated pharmacist help- line. CMS also specified that steps have been taken to ensure that pharmacists can override inappropriate claim denials. For example, plans must have expedited procedures for pharmacists to obtain authorization to override any improper claim denial, in accordance with their transition policy, in case a beneficiary's prescribed medications are not on the plan's formulary. In all of these areas, health plans had already responded by taking these and other steps to assist beneficiaries. The CMS actions help ensure that all plans provide effective service. CMS also has regular one-on-one calls with the plans to identify issues and solutions. CMS is in constant communication with the plans pertaining to issues as they arise, and the Agency has developed a collaborative process whereby CMS organizes calls with plans and their pharmacists to resolve problems as quickly as possible.

CMS Continues Extensive Outreach to Pharmacists

Since implementation of the benefit, CMS has continued its extensive outreach to pharmacists. We have continued discussions with pharmacy organizations both centrally and regionally, as well as our direct contact with both independent and chain pharmacies. Additionally, CMS hosted a technical support teleconference for pharmacists across the country January 5, 2006 and also hosted a national open door forum for pharmacists January 10, 2006 to answer questions. The first was to directly address the point of sale enrollment process. The second call addressed many implementation issues and included a lengthy question and answer session. We have also sent four Medicare Rx Update communications since December 30, 2005. CMS has identified frequently asked questions regarding the point of sale facilitated enrollment system, plan transition policies, plan contact information, "What If" scenarios for pharmacists, tips for using the E1 system and much more. Specific examples of outreach that CMS has performed in relation to January 1, 2006 issues include:

--Daily calls with pharmacists and pharmacy executives all over the country. These calls help identify trends and workable solutions to numerous issues associated with implementation as well as facilitating outreach to thousands of pharmacists.

--Over 1,000 emails and calls in direct response to specific issues presented to the pharmacist since January 1.

In addition, CMS is holding weekly conferences with pharmacy associations that help CMS distribute information and educate pharmacists to ensure they have the most complete and up-to-date information possible. Also, CMS is communicating on a daily basis with both chain and independent pharmacies. Pharmacists in CMS' ten regional offices are working directly with local pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy associations to identify troubling trends and specific problems. CMS is working closely with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Community Pharmacist Association (NCPA), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the National Council of State Pharmacy Association Executives (NCSPAE), the American Society for the Automation of Pharmacy (ASAP) and other groups to help communicate with and educate their membership.

CMS Continues Outreach with Physicians

On January 1 CMS placed an announcement on the welcome page to our Physicians Regulatory Issues Team (PRIT) website with advice for providers and an invitation for them to call or email CMS with issues or concerns about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. We have received and responded to almost 200 emails from providers. In addition, CMS sent a letter to physicians outlining specific sources of help and information including the following.

--A web-based formulary finder linked to all plan formularies.

--Information about Epocrates, an electronic handheld and web- based drug and formulary reference for physicians, that is providing plan formulary information including both tier and step therapy information and is updated constantly.

--An exceptions and appeals contact list for each prescription drug plan so physicians can help a patient by filing a prior authorization for a medication or appeal a medication's tier.

--Information about coverage determinations, exceptions, appeals, and expedited requests.

--A universal, faxable form created by a coalition of medical societies and advocacy groups for pharmacists and physicians to use in the event a patient's prescription is not on a formulary or on a higher tier. This optional form provides a straightforward way for the pharmacist to communicate with a physician's office.

--A chart to determine if the drug a physician prescribed is a Part B or Part D drug.

--Information about the CMS web-based email and weekly conference calls where physicians can get direct help with their concerns.

CMS Continues Collaboration with States

To ensure ongoing coordination with the States after the prescription drug benefit began, CMS is hosting conference calls with the State Medicaid Directors about Medicare prescription drug plan implementation challenges and solutions several times each week. Additionally, calls continue with States and plans, pharmacists, and CMS staff. CMS regional offices are making regular calls to the State Medicaid Directors and their staff with updates and to address specific problems.

CMS Establishes Reimbursement Plan for States that Cover the Cost of Dual Eligible Individuals

CMS is working with the States to ensure all dual eligible individuals are able to leave the pharmacy with the drugs they need. In addition, pharmacies need to continue to work with the plans to sort out start-up issues as quickly as possible. However, some States are reporting that dual eligible individuals have been charged the wrong cost sharing amounts when they have gone to the pharmacy and some have left the pharmacy without their drugs.

Certain States have taken steps to help their dual eligible individuals by using their State system of reimbursement to pharmacies. These States are now paying for dual eligible beneficiaries' prescriptions that should be paid for by the prescription drug plans, and, if States have stepped in they will be reimbursed. On January 25 we announced a demonstration project to reimburse States for their expenses related to the Medicare prescription drug program. CMS will work to ensure that prescription drug plans to reimburse States for the dual eligible individuals up to the amount they would otherwise have paid for the duals' drug costs. Through this demonstration project, the federal government will reimburse States for any differential between the plan reimbursement and the state payment, as well as for certain administrative costs for paying the State claims and facilitating the correct enrollment of dual eligible individuals into a prescription drug plan. States will work with CMS to help obtain accurate beneficiary information on drug spending. They will also use payment approaches that support pharmacists' efforts to primarily bill the Medicare prescription drug plans and ensure the use of the Medicare point-of-sale billing before relying on State payment such that states serve as a payer of last resort. States that follow these recommendations have had only limited claims made against their Medicaid systems. The demonstration requires States to make significant progress toward turning off their State reimbursement systems and return to the Medicare prescription drug system by February 15, 2006 with the Secretary having discretion to extend the demonstration for a limited period thereafter if necessary.

With input through a State workgroup, CMS developed a template to apply for this demonstration for use by those States that re- instituted some coverage through their Medicaid system for dual eligible individuals. The template is expected to be available shortly and will be posted on the CMS Website.

In addition to providing reimbursement to the States, the demonstration will include timely data sharing and claims identification features. States that participate should provide timely summary information on claims incurred, including summary amount and beneficiary identification information, to facilitate reconciliation and beneficiary transition to prescription drug plans. States should also work with CMS to provide valid data on any set of beneficiaries who may not have been included properly in the State's previous dual eligible files. Also, States should separate claims for the transition period from claims the States would have otherwise paid through a separate State program. In some States, the State has elected to pay all cost sharing, for example, on behalf of some individuals who would otherwise have paid a copayment. Under the demonstration, plans, and then Medicare, would reimburse State paid claims previously incurred and up to and through the anticipated end date of this demonstration of February 15, 2006. CMS will continue to work closely with the States, as we have been, to resolve temporary transition issues and make sure people with Medicare can get the new prescription drug coverage if they want it.

CMS Continues to Work Hard to Ensure the Most Important New Benefit in 40 Years Delivers Drugs to People with Medicare

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and the transition process and protections for people with Medicare. Transition is never without challenges. CMS is taking many steps with systems, plans, pharmacists, States, and other partners to quickly resolve the implementation challenges that have arisen in the first weeks of this beneficial new program, and we appreciate your collaborative efforts to address them. As the New York Times noted in 1966 when Medicare debuted, "This great new experiment must be given ample time to get over its growing pains."8 CMS is confident that we too will overcome our "growing pains" as we continue to address the challenges set before us implementing the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. I would be happy to answer your questions.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 2, 2006


 



9.    US Fed News, “REP. MEEK INVITES KATRINA EVACUEE TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS,” January 27, 2006

 

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Copyright 2006 HT Media Ltd.

All Rights Reserved

US Fed News

 

January 27, 2006 Friday  5:36 AM  EST

 

LENGTH: 394  words

 

HEADLINE: REP. MEEK INVITES KATRINA EVACUEE TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

 

BYLINE: US Fed News

 

DATELINE: MIAMI

 

BODY:

 Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, D-Fla. (17th CD), issued the following press release:

  Today, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek announced that he has invited a New Orleans Hurricane Katrina evacuee to sit in the House gallery and view President Bush's January 31st State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. Each Member of Congress is given one ticket for a guest to the speech. Meek's guest will be Ms. Joelle Bowers, 38, a Katrina evacuee and single mother, who currently resides in Washington, DC.

  "The government's failed response to this season's hurricanes shows the Bush Administration's appalling insensitivity to Americans in need; the Administration's incompetence in planning, preparation and government administration; and the cronyism that results in appointments to important government positions on the basis of politics instead of ability," Meek said. "I look forward to hearing how the President plans to help residents of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, who lost so much in this year's storms."

  Meek has continually called for an independent commission, similar to the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the federal government's response to this season's hurricanes. Meek has also introduced legislation that would create within the Department of Homeland Security a Special Office of the Inspector General for Natural Disaster Response and Reconstruction, which would be tasked with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in government contracts and programs.

  Attending her first State of the Union address, Bowers hopes to hear about the President's plans to rebuild New Orleans and preserve its unique cultural heritage, while protecting the city from future storms.

  "I would like to hear that the President is committed to financing the rebuilding of the homes and businesses destroyed by the hurricanes with the same commitment he has shown to financing the war and rebuilding in Iraq," said Bowers. "Katrina was a war with nature, and we lost."

  Meek is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Management, Integration and Oversight, which has oversight authority over the Department of Homeland Security, including FEMA.

  Rep. Meek represents Florida's 17th Congressional District, which includes portions of northern Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties.

  Contact: Drew Hammill, 202/225-4506.

 

LOAD-DATE: February 8, 2006


 



10.   THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “HUD chief vows evacuee aid In Houston, concern grows over crime, housing subsidies,” January 20, 2006

 

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Copyright 2006 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

 

January 20, 2006 Friday 

SECOND EDITION

 

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 3A

 

LENGTH: 540 words

 

HEADLINE: HUD chief vows evacuee aid In Houston, concern grows over crime, housing subsidies

 

BYLINE: BRUCE NICHOLS, Houston Bureau

 

BODY:

HOUSTON - Fearful about statistics linking hurricane evacuees to a spike in homicides here and worried that FEMA might push evacuees out of temporary housing and onto the streets, Texas' biggest city needed the assurance given Thursday that more federal help is on the way.

In fact, Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson told reporters that HUD would take up the slack, if necessary, for evacuees.

"I don't think we can displace some fears that people have," Mr. Jackson said. "I can tell you the president has made it clear that we're to work with the evacuees until they're back up on their feet."

The remarks came amid growing concern about the estimated 150,000 evacuees still in Houston nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Homicides involving displaced Louisianians as suspects or victims total 23, or 20 percent of the killings since they arrived, police say.

Concern about crime was growing before the evacuees arrived. Houston homicides increased 23 percent last year to an unofficial 336. And they skyrocketed 50 percent in January, to 22 as of Thursday.

Adding to the tension is Mayor Bill White's continuing battle with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over housing subsidies. The agency says it wants to stop paying hotel bills for evacuees starting Feb. 7. FEMA has offered those who qualify longer-term individual rental assistance but has declined to back the 12-month apartment leases Houston handed out. And the mayor has expressed concern that FEMA's approach could displace lots of people.

But Mr. Jackson said HUD would step in, if needed.

"If they have not been able to find any other housing, FEMA will switch them over to our program, and we will take up that process for the rest of the time that they'll be on the program," he said.

"We're not going to cut anybody off," he said.

Police Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters this week that he is concerned about evidence of Louisiana-based gang activity and said countermeasures are in the works.

Mr. White told reporters that Houston generally has low crime rates and that Louisianians are no more responsible than Houstonians. There are just more people in the city. Houston has asked FEMA for supplemental police funding not because there's a crime wave, but because of population increase due to the hurricane, he said.

"It's a safe city, but there are some hot spots that are really troublesome, and we are throwing a lot of resources at those hot spots," Mr. White said.

A surge in officer retirement also is complicating police response to the crime challenge. Houston has 700 fewer officers than two years ago, just under 4,700. Officials are stepping up cadet classes and recruitment of officers from other departments, with a proposal in the works to offer signing bonuses as high as $7,000 to police veterans who transfer in.

In Dallas, police say Hurricane Katrina evacuees have not had any significant effect on local crime statistics. In fact, Dallas crime overall was down in 2005, for the first time in decades, led by nearly a 20 percent drop in homicides.

An estimated 30,000 evacuees originally relocated to North Texas, but because they've dispersed, an accurate count of how many are here now is not available.

E-mail bnichols@dallasnews.com

 

GRAPHIC: PHOTO(S): Alphonso Jackson

 

LOAD-DATE: January 20, 2006


 



11.   CNN, “Pakistanis Protest U.S. Air Strike; Emir of Kuwait Dies,” January 15, 2006

 

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Copyright 2006 Cable News Network

All Rights Reserved.

 

CNN

 

SHOW: CNN SUNDAY MORNING 7:00 AM EST

 

January 15, 2006 Sunday

 

TRANSCRIPT: 011501CN.V46

 

SECTION: NEWS; International

 

LENGTH: 10177  words

 

HEADLINE: Pakistanis Protest U.S. Air Strike; Emir of Kuwait Dies

 

BYLINE: Betty Nguyen, Tony Harris, Daniel Sieberg, J.J. Ramberg, Leah Johnson, Jason Carroll, Gary Tuchman, Bonnie Schneider, Elaine Quijano, Rick Horrow

 

GUESTS: Angela Gay Kinkead, Steven Katzman

 

HIGHLIGHT:

Thousands of people in Pakistan braved the rain and cold to demonstrate against the United States and Pakistani President Musharraf. The protesters denounced a reported CIA air strike Friday which killed 18 people in a remote village near the Afghan border. The target of that strike was said to be al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Then, a Gulf Arab ruler and U.S. ally is dead this morning. The emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, died today after a long illness. He was 77. Sheikh Jaber ruled the tiny oil- rich nation since 1977.

 

BODY:

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Angry anti-American protests all across Pakistan today. Thousands of people braved the rain and cold to demonstrate against the United States and Pakistani President Musharraf. The protesters denounced a reported CIA air strike Friday which killed 18 people in a remote village near the Afghan border. The target of that strike was said to be al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. There are conflicting reports, though, about where he was at the time and if he was even there.

A Gulf Arab ruler and U.S. ally is dead this morning. The emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, died today after a long illness. He was 77. Sheikh Jaber ruled the tiny oil-rich nation since 1977.

And take a look at these live pictures right now. A NASA capsule has landed after a very long journey. A helicopter has that capsule and all of the information inside it right now and is transporting it to the ground.

The capsule released by the Stardust mothership is carrying comet dust -- we'll be talking about that -- as it plummeted through the Earth's atmosphere and landed in the Utah desert just about two hours ago. It is ending a seven-year trip into deep space.

Did you see it? Were you able to snap some pictures of it? Because if you were, we want to see them.

E-mail us, weekends@cnn.com, and we'll show some of those pictures throughout the morning.

Well, the wife of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Harper is in jail this morning for alleged allegedly cutting him with a knife. Sheriff's officials say Danielle Harper is being held without bond on charges of battery with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness. Nick Harper was treated for a minor knee injury, and it's unclear whether he'll play in today's AFC divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh.

Good morning, everybody.

From the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It's Sunday, January 15, 7:00 a.m. here in Atlanta and 5:00 a.m. at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Tony Harris. Daniel Sieberg is with us.

NGUYEN: We have lots of -- great information on this Stardust capsule.

HARRIS: It's a big deal.

Daniel's with us first thing in the morning.

NGUYEN: I know. Hey, Daniel doesn't get up just for anything. OK.

HARRIS: How about that?

Coming up in this first hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING, almost 37 years after his assassination, Greenville, South Carolina, sheds its stereotypes to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Also, what does the sound of your voice reveal about you? One man found out. Now he's fighting back.

Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina, the wheels are on the trailers for temporary housing, but the wheels at FEMA aren't turning fast enough, especially for people still living in tents.

NGUYEN: All right.

We want to get you back to that stunning triumph for NASA. A space capsule carrying tiny particles of dust from a comet has landed to lots of cheers. Look at that at NASA. The Stardust mothership released the capsule about two hours ago as it closed into 69,000 miles from Earth.

So joining us now is our technology correspondent, Daniel Sieberg. Told you, he doesn't get up for just anything.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Hey, for space I'll get up early.

NGUYEN: You'll get up early for that?

SIEBERG: For Stardust, you bet.

NGUYEN: This was quite an amazing return to Earth, what, 29,000 miles per hour this capsule dropped down?

SIEBERG: It did, and it's now being brought in by a helicopter. We've got some live pictures we can show you of NASA transporting this capsule.

You can see the helicopter right here. It's pretty dark. It's at Michael Army Airfield, just across the street from Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah.

What's in here in the helicopter which they will be taking out is the capsule, about the size of a tire. It weighs about 100 pounds, and it's containing these samples from the comet.

They're going to take this capsule. It's essentially doubly bagged to protect it from any sort of contamination from the Earth. They're going to eventually take it to the Johnson Space Center in Houston and analyze these samples. So a very important mission for NASA.

NGUYEN: Well, something I think that we were talking about as we understand this stardust that was captured in there in this capsule, you said it kind of looks like a honeycomb inside...

SIEBERG: Yes.

NGUYEN: ... and there's gel there that collected the stardust.

SIEBERG: Exactly. We can walk people through sort of what happened in the last few hours or so. We have some -- some animation that shows where exactly the capsule traveled as it made its way back into Earth.

What you can see here is the trajectory of it. This is the capsule right here as it goes over parts of Oregon and Nevada, into Utah, eventually making its way down.

Now, we have also some infrared, because of course it's pitch black out there in the middle of the salt flats in Utah. So they used infrared to capture it coming down.

NGUYEN: Yes.

SIEBERG: You can just see it here. At this point the parachute had not actually -- there it is up here -- had not actually deployed. So there were some anxious moments as it made its way down.

NGUYEN: Just a little ray of light is what it looks like.

SIEBERG: Right. It just looks like a little ray of light. And as it made its way down, eventually this parachute did deploy.

So it came down with a fairly gentle landing. Apparently, it bounced a few times. Then they had to send the helicopters out into the salt flats to actually retrieve the samples.

And we can just show you now exactly how the NASA scientists reacted when they discovered what had happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

We have touchdown!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIEBERG: And to sort of summarize just briefly why this is so important, the samples they retrieved from the comet are believed to be some clues as to the building blocks of how the solar system formed four and a half billion years ago.

NGUYEN: Oh, that's all, just a little something like that.

SIEBERG: Just that little thing, yes. Sort of the origins of life and so on, et cetera.

NGUYEN: Right.

SIEBERG: So they're going to be analyzing these and trying to find some clues about all of that.

NGUYEN: It's just so fascinating, Daniel. I know that we're going to be speaking with you throughout the morning...

SIEBERG: Yes.

NGUYEN: ... about the details of all of this. We could spend so much time talking to you about it.

SIEBERG: Well, they'll be spending weeks and years and, you know, a lot of time with these samples.

NGUYEN: Learning from all of this.

SIEBERG: Exactly, yes.

NGUYEN: All right. We'll talk to you soon, Daniel.

SIEBERG: All right. You bet.

HARRIS: More tragedy in a school shooting drama. It all began Friday at a Florida middle school. The boy shot by a S.W.A.T. team member is now brain dead.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Penley is being kept alive so his organs can be donated. Witnesses at the Orlando-area schools say the scene unfolded quickly Friday. They say Penley ran through the school with what looked like a real gun.

CNN's J.J. Ramberg is in Altamonte Springs, Florida, where people are still trying to figure out how this could happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK NATION, PENLEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: It's a pellet gun that's been painted black, and he was on his way there to help talk his son out of this situation.

J.J. RAMBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The lawyer for Christopher Penley's family told reporters that Chris's father was devastated and extremely angry at police. The father also says he could have talked his son into surrendering.

NATION: When he got to the school, they would not let him in, and he was later told that Christopher had been shot. RAMBERG: Friday, police say 15-year-old Christopher Penley was in a classroom in his central Florida middle school and pulled out what looked like a .9 millimeter pistol.

MAURICE COTEY, 7TH GRADER: We were in the classroom and we were about to do a test. And then one of my classmates said this kid has a gun.

RAMBERG: Thirteen-year-old Maurice Cotey and his mother recount his frightening encounter on Friday.

COTEY: Everyone ran out of the classroom except for me and this one girl, and we were walking, and he said, "You stay." So the girl, she ran out of the classroom, and he told me to get up against the blackboard, and I did, and he put the gun to my back, and then we -- then I told him, "Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me."

So I was walking, then he got me towards the closet door. He turned me around, and he said -- and he started to point the gun at me. So I started to grab for it.

I pointed it near his legs, and he kicked me into the closet. And I still had the gun twisted, and then he pulled -- he ran into the closet, and that got me up, and then I pushed him and I ran out of the classroom.

RAMBERG: The sheriff says officers ordered the eighth grader to drop the gun. Instead, they say, he took aim at police, and a member of the S.W.A.T. team shot Penley.

The gun turned out to be a pellet gun, painted, police say, to look just like a real firearm.

LT. MIKE WEIPPERT, SEMINOLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: This is the actual firearm held by the subject inside of the -- the one that I'm holding during the incident. And as you can see, it looks almost identical to the one that Zach Hauley (ph) is holding, which is the actual real .9 millimeter handgun.

RAMBERG (on camera): Ralph Penley's lawyer said that they're not making any accusations and they're not pointing any fingers, but they felt the information they discussed should be out in the public. We called the police, who said that at this point they're not making any comment. There is an ongoing investigation into this incident.

J.J. Ramberg, CNN, Altamonte Springs, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Boy. The only survivor of the Sago Mine disaster remains in critical condition this morning. At last check, doctors in West Virginia say he's now breathing without the help of a ventilator.

This afternoon, a memorial service takes place at West Virginia Wesleyan College to honor the 12 workers who died in the Sago Mine. McCloy's family is expected to attend. The Sago Mine service begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now, coming up at the half-hour, we will talk with the organizer of the Hope, Honor and Healing service. And be sure to tune in for live coverage of the miners' memorial service.

Again, that starts at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

NGUYEN: Here are some other story its making news "Across America" this morning.

In south Florida, attorneys for two teens suspected of beating homeless men are negotiating their surrender. This brutal attack -- look at it here -- with baseball bats was captured on a security camera. Both teens are reportedly out of the state and have not been arrested. They could face murder charges in the death of one man and aggravated battery in the beating of two others.

The attorney for a second man accused in the killing of "New York Times" journalist David Rosenbaum says his client didn't do it. Percy Jordan, Jr. had a court appearance yesterday. Rosenbaum was struck in the head and robbed near his home in Washington. The 63-year-old had been a reporter and editor for the newspaper for more than 35 years.

Firefighters in Oklahoma are dealing with a red-flag warning for extreme fire danger today. Wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour and temperatures in the 70s are expected. The panhandle of Texas and eastern New Mexico are also under extreme fire danger warnings today.

HARRIS: They can't get a break there.

People across the country will observe the holiday marking Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday tomorrow. And for the first time, Greenville County, South Carolina, will recognize the holiday for the first time by giving employees a paid day off.

Greenville was the last of South Carolina's 46 counties to observe the holiday. This year's celebration kicked off with a banquet.

Leah Johnson from our affiliate station WSPA has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEAH JOHNSON, REPORTER, WSPA (voice over): This is where hundreds of people are looking to be inspired while keeping in mind the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's a celebration that I wanted to be a part of because, you know, last year in Greenville, it was such a struggle for Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday to be recognized in Greenville County.

JOHNSON: That struggle in the end gave way to a county holiday in King's honor and people a reason to celebrate. With standing room only, an overwhelming crowd filled every inch of this Greenville ballroom. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It speaks volumes for how Greenville is willing to come forward and shed that negative image of old stereotypes and show that we are a very diverse community.

JOHNSON: Celebrating with the county is Dr. King's youngest daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But of all the places in America that she could go, she came to Greenville, South Carolina.

BERNICE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING'S DAUGHTER: It's easy for most of us to come to ceremonies and applaud it. But it's much more difficult for us to seek, to capture that same spirit and make the sacrifices necessary for the next generation.

JOHNSON: In her speech, Dr. Bernice King spoke of moving beyond the celebration of her father's dream and inspired people to spring into action. Words of wisdom to a county that has already come a long way.

KING: And if you're really going to live your full life, if you're really going to live your full essence, you're going to have to up this ante.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And how about this: Dr. Bernice King will join us in a couple of hours. We'll talk more about her trip to Greenville and the controversy over the future of the King Center here in Atlanta, Betty. We'll also take a look at the new leaders of the civil rights movement. That's in our 9:00 a.m. hour.

NGUYEN: But right now, we want to hear from you. Has the message of hope, peace and advancement been diluted over the years? What do you think?

E-mail us your thoughts. Our address: weekends@cnn.com.

Speaking of the civil rights movement and equal rights, consider this: what if the sound of your voice could deny you a home, a job or a loan? One man says it happened to him and is he taking his dilemma to court. CNN investigates.

HARRIS: Also, the run for the record books continues in soggy Seattle. Bonnie will -- will -- I don't know, will Seattle be catching a bit of a break today? It would be nice.

Good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. Some of our top stories for you right now.

Anger in Pakistan. Thousands turn out in protest across the country after a U.S. air strike kills 18 people on Friday. U.S. officials say the CIA was targeting an al Qaeda leader. But Pakistani authorities say the leader was not in the area.

Divers are recovering bodies from a boat accident in the Philippines. At least 16 people drowned when an overloaded boat capsized during a sea parade. Authorities say one person fell overboard. The others rushed to that side to see what happened. And there you go.

And NASA's Stardust mission comes to an end. The space probe releases a capsule carrying comet dust after a seven-year, three- billion-mile voyage.

All right. Help us out. E-mail us if you captured any images of the capsule as it streaked across the western sky. There's the address, weekends@cnn.com.

NGUYEN: Imagine someone turning you down for a mortgage or an apartment just because of the sound of your voice over the phone. You are about to meet a man who says it happened to him, and he is fighting back.

Jason Carroll has this CNN investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm calling about the sales position I saw advertised.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What can you tell about someone simply by the way they sound on the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm calling to get information about mortgage rates.

CARROLL: A caller's gender might seem obvious. But what about other characteristics?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I read your ad in the paper about the apartment for rent.

CARROLL: Like a person's race. It is a sensitive subject for James Robinson, a mental health professional living in Saint Louis.

JAMES ROBINSON, APARTMENT SEEKER: The more I thought it, the more angry I was becoming.

CARROLL: Robinson believes he was denied an apartment because, he says, he has what linguists call an African-American dialect.

(on camera): And this was the sign that you saw.

ROBINSON: This was the sign that was posted out front. And I got the number that you see at the bottom. And that's when I made my call.

CARROLL (voice-over): Robinson was told at first he had reached an answering service. Then, he says, something else odd happened.

ROBINSON: And I hear the voices muffled in the background. And she was telling the woman I was on the phone inquiring about a two- bedroom apartment. And the other woman asks, what does he sound like?

CARROLL: Robinson says the woman then told him nothing was available and hung up.

ROBINSON: I just kind of sat there for a moment and just kept rethinking the whole conversation over and over.

CARROLL: Suspicious of his treatment, Robinson decided to conduct an experiment. He had a Latino friend call and then an African-American friend call the building. Both were told nothing was available. Then Robinson reached out to one of his white friends.

JIM LADD, FRIEND: James did call me and said, will you -- will you call this complex and....

CARROLL: Who says he called and got a much different response.

LADD: She said, we do have some apartments available.

CARROLL: Robinson took his findings to the Saint Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council.

KATINA COMBS, SAINT LOUIS EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL: We definitely hear and see a lot about voice profiling.

CARROLL: The EHOC conducted their own investigation, finding similar results, and filed a complaint on Robinson's behalf with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. An attorney for the building told CNN, "There is no evidence of any discrimination on my clients' part. The building in question is racially mixed."

(on camera): Would you call it a subtle form of discrimination or no? I mean, maybe that's just my words. What -- what -- what do you -- how do you qualify it?

COMBS: It is very subtle, extremely subtle. It is not like it used to be years ago, where you had signs in the yard that said, "For whites only" or "No coloreds allowed."

CARROLL (voice-over): So, to keep tabs on voice profiling, the EHOC constantly run tests. On the day we visit, a white and black tester call a different building, where another complaint has been filed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking for yourself?

CARROLL: Both are asked about employment and the type of apartment they need. But the black caller is told he needs to check out the area first. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You can stop by and see the area. And if you like it, then you can call us and we can show you the apartment.

CARROLL: He's then asked more questions never asked of the white tester.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much approximately -- I don't want to know exact -- but approximately how much you are making every month?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I make about $31,000 per year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And never had any problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. I have never been late on my rent.

CARROLL: The white tester is told of the apartment's amenities, never mentioned to the black caller.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it has washer and dryer in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dishwasher also, has garbage disposal, self- cleaning oven and a refrigerator.

CARROLL: In the end, the white caller is offered an appointment to see the unit. The black caller is never contacted.

PROFESSOR JOHN BAUGH, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We have seen it throughout the country.

CARROLL: Professor John Baugh isn't surprised by the experiment's outcome. He's a linguistic expert who has written extensively about voice profiling and has run many tests of his own.

BAUGH: Using my professional voice, I called around and was told, please come and look at the apartments. But I would call back, and I modify my dialect a little bit, you understand, and I will call and I would say, hello, I'm calling about the apartment you have advertised in the paper. And when I used that rendition, I found that I got less of a positive response rate.

CARROLL: Baugh says only through testing, accountability and education can there ever be change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's pretty much a shame, you know, that a person is not even given the chance to at least apply.

CARROLL: James Robinson's case is still pending. He says, despite the effort he has put into this, it has been worth it to show that a person's true character isn't determined by how they sound.

Jason Carroll, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: Doors will open today at the largest church in West Virginia. They are inviting friends and family to remember the Sago miners.

HARRIS: And coming up next, we'll talk to the organizer of today's service and how she hopes to honor the men who died and heal the community spirit.

And later, wasted money and broken promises? We're keeping leaders honest as to why thousands of Katrina evacuees are still living in tents.

We'll be right back.

HARRIS: You know, I was watching that football game yesterday, as we see this truck virtually submerged in water out there in Seattle. And it was nasty. It was nasty.

NGUYEN: And that place has gotten what now? Twenty-seven days of rain.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: Twenty-seven straight days.

HARRIS: So, sloshing around -- I'm supposed to read this. It says slosh, splash. It's too early in the morning. I can't put it all together at 7:00 in the morning.

NGUYEN: You're not selling it, no.

HARRIS: Rainiest year ever in Seattle. 1953 is what you have to go back to, when it rained for 33 days in a row. Right now we're up to 27 days.

NGUYEN: Right. Just six days away.

HARRIS: And I guess there's a bit of a hopeful sign here. High waters in the rivers beginning to subside just a bit. So there you go, good news there, hopefully.

NGUYEN: Yes, a little bit of good news. Hopefully...

HARRIS: Some sunshine.

NGUYEN: ... they won't reach that record mark. But, you know, some folks are getting the rain in the form of snow, Bonnie?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: You know, we've been telling the same story with the fires and...

NGUYEN: And the rain out West. HARRIS: Were you just talking about that? Same story. Same weather story.

All right, Bonnie. Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

Late last night, drama off the field.

NGUYEN: Much drama.

HARRIS: Oh, boy. It really could affect the playoff chances for the Indianapolis Colts. We'll explain coming up.

NGUYEN: And later, the trailers are there, just look at them, but Katrina evacuees can't move in. And the reason will outrage you. We are keeping them honest.

CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues in just a moment.

A devastated community gathers today to remember and honor the 12 miners lost inside the Sago mine. We want to welcome you back on a Sunday morning. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. We'll preview that service in a moment, but first, a look at news happening right now.

Laura Bush will mark Martin Luther King Day in Africa this year. The first lady is heading a delegation to Liberia to attend the inauguration of Africa's first female head of state. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also there for the swearing in of Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Bad news if you've got the flu. Two treatments are now nearly useless in guarding against the flu. The CDC tested the drugs and found they were ineffective 91 percent of the time against this season's dominant strain. But doctors still have other options like Tamiflu which is the primary drug being used against the flu in most places.

She made a name for herself playing brassy outspoken women in Hollywood. Now that long career has come to an end. Two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters died of heart failure yesterday in a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills. Winters was 85. In recent years, she played Roseanne Barr's grandmother on the sitcom "Roseanne."

NGUYEN: Family and friends mourn today and a community tries to heal. The 12 miners who have died in the Sago mine tragedy will be remembered this afternoon. It was nearly two weeks ago that day and survivor Randy McCloy entered the West Virginia mine and became trapped by an explosion. Just last week, family and friends bid farewell to their loved ones in a series of funerals. The Reverend Angela Gay Kinkead of West Virginia Wesleyan College joins us now from Buchanan, West Virginia to talk about today's memorial. Reverend, I want to thank you for being with us. Talk to me a little bit about the service today and I imagine the entire town is going to be coming out for that.

REV. ANGELA GAY KINKEAD, W.VA. WESLEYAN COLLEGE: We expect so. It's actually the community is now defined as the world, I think, in many ways. There are people coming from various parts of the country. We know people coming from Kansas, from Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, to honor these miners and their families in this community and support us.

NGUYEN: And as we wait and we'll watch, of course, the memorial service which will be aired here live on CNN, I have to ask you, will any of the family members be speaking today in remembrance of their loved ones?

KINKEAD: We do understand that two of the family members have asked to just say some remarks to the community. They'll be very brief, but I think words of appreciation and statements of faith.

NGUYEN: How are you helping these family members cope? I mean, when anyone dies, it doesn't matter who it is, it's always very difficult to understand and to get a grasp of. How are you helping them with the whys and what next?

KINKEAD: Well, I think there's a core of pastors and counselors who have surrounded them from the very beginning and even today, some of those pastors and counselors will be with the families, with our special guests to help and support them and keep them focused on again, the honor, the hope and the healing that today's service, we hope, provides a foundation for.

NGUYEN: I know that you're going to be honoring or remembering the miners killed. Are there any special nuggets of information that will be introduced, little special moments in these miners' lives that will be shared today as a celebration of life?

KINKEAD: Well, we'll be lighting candles of honor at the beginning of the service. Each family will step forward and light a candle. Randy McCloy's candle is a candle of color. The others will be white and they'll each be given a memento that the local committee has selected, something they can hang onto, and they will also be supported today by the Red Cross. They'll hand out bears to the people coming, that will, just something people can hold onto, their standard kind of a standard bear handed out by the Red Cross. We just have a lot of support today from community organizations and from individuals.

NGUYEN: Do you think this tragedy has brought the town closer together? These families closer together or have they grieved separately in their own way?

KINKEAD: I'm really not sure about the families. I've not been in direct contact with the families, but I think as a community, we've just worked incredibly well together this week and come together and stayed focus on the families, stayed focused on what our mission is.

NGUYEN: It's going to be a difficult day, no doubt, but obviously the focus is on a celebration of life to honor these men who were killed, unfortunately, in this tragedy. Reverend, we appreciate your time today.

KINKEAD: Thank you, Betty.

NGUYEN: Once again the miners' memorial begins at 2:00 Eastern this afternoon. You can depend on CNN to bring it live to you. Then you want to tune in for a special "Larry King Live" tonight, "Honor, Hope and Healing," the memorial service and family members. It begins at 9:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: Checking some of the stories we will be covering this week, the nation remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tomorrow. This is the 20th year of celebrating MLK day as a national holiday. It has a special meaning this year. It follows the death in October of civil rights symbol Rosa Parks.

NASA anticipates a postcard from Pluto about nine years from now. The new horizon space probe is set to launch on Tuesday. Pluto is the last unexplored planet in our solar system.

And the 2005 Sundance film festival kicks off Friday in Park City, Utah. This year there's the Sundance online film festival, I didn't know about this, at www.sundance.org, so everyone can participate.

NGUYEN: Oh! That's neat.

HARRIS: It sounds like that deja vu all over again, a big name athlete and an injured knee, but this time it all happened off the field and now a playoff berth could be on the line. We'll tell you all about it.

NGUYEN: And speaking about playoffs, both games are in the Midwest today. We'll get you caught up on those and the weather. Stay tuned.

NGUYEN: This just in, some live pictures now of a funeral, a Gulf Arab ruler. Also a U.S. ally is dead. The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, died after a long illness. He died today. He was 77 years old. The sheikh ruled the tiny oil-rich nation since 1977. Look at the mourners who have come to respect what this sheikh, this leader has done for the country. They've come out in just droves for this funeral. Just to give you a little bit of history about him, the emir of Kuwait survived an assassination attempt in the 1980s and a decade later escaped Iraqi troops invading his oil-rich Persian Gulf state. Now he had been in poor health since suffering from a brain hemorrhage five years ago. But again, we have learned that the emir of Kuwait as you see the live funerals right now, has died today after a long illness. He was 77 years old.

In other news, after seven years and nearly 3 billion miles through the solar system, the Stardust spacecraft flew over earth about two and a half hours ago, releasing a capsule carrying a sample of dust from a comet. Mission Stardust is the first of its kind dedicated solely to the exploration of comets. Thousands of people gathered in cities across Pakistan to demonstrate against both their president and the U.S. in the wake of Friday's deadly air strike. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was the reported target of that strike. Eighteen people were killed, including women and children. Pakistani intelligence officials say al Zawahiri was not among the dead.

And the presiding judge in the Saddam Hussein trial plans to resign today. Rizgar Mohammed Amin says he will stay on the tribunal, but doesn't want to be the leading judge. Whether the high tribunal will accept the request is still unknown.

HARRIS: Well, whatever else happens, there will be a new Super Bowl champion this year. The New England Patriots ended their two-year championship streak last night losing 27-13 to the Denver Broncos.

In Seattle in the rain, the hotter than spit Seahawks ended - hotter than spit -- ended 21 years of post-season drought, beating another hotter than expected team, the Washington Redskins, final score 20-10. The Super Bowl scramble continues later today with Carolina going up against last year's NFC champs, Chicago. Is that (INAUDIBLE) The Indianapolis Colts host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Some drama behind the football scores to tell you about this morning, that's for sure. This comes from Indianapolis, where Colts quarterback Nick Harper was taken to a hospital last night with knife wounds to his knee. It's questionable whether he'll play later today. His wife, Danielle Harper, is in jail this morning, charged with cutting him with a knife. According to doctors, Harper's injuries were not serious.

NGUYEN: My-my. Well, American skater Michelle Kwan has one more chance to chase that elusive Olympic gold. A selection committee gave Kwan a medal bye. Kwan missed last night's U.S. national due to a groin injury. However, the nine-time U.S. and five-time world champion must prove by January 27th that she's fully recovered and able to compete. You know she will be. Hopefully she will be. Sasha Cohen earned her spot on the Olympic team by winning the U.S. figure skating championships last night. She is just such a wonder on the ice, good team, great U.S. team that they're putting together.

HARRIS: I'm glad that Kwan's going to be there in there. She's fabulous.

NGUYEN: And she's got to be well though by the 27th.

HARRIS: I hope she is.

Five months later and thousands in New Orleans are still desperate for housing. FEMA says it has trailers ready to go but there's still a holdup. We'll take you inside the frustration when CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.

NGUYEN: While these travel trailers sit parked, roughly 5,000 Mississippi families are still waiting for a trailer just to live in. It's been four months since hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes. Now a Federal official is placing blame telling Congress there's a lack of coordination among utility companies in Mississippi. And the complaints about FEMA and the trailers aren't limited to Mississippi. CNN's Gary Tuchman is keeping them honest in this report from St. Bernard Parish.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These days, it's not easy to think positive in St. Bernard Parish, not with thousands of homeless people still waiting, many of them in tents, for FEMA trailers to live in.

JOEY DIFATTA, ST. BERNARD PARISH COUNCILMAN: We have 6,000 folks applied for trailers in the St. Bernard Parish. There are roughly 1,300 were delivered.

TUCHMAN: These trailers being installed by FEMA contractors are still empty. Katrina victims say they were told the construction would be complete by Christmas. So why is all this taking so long? FEMA says it's working against unprecedented obstacles. Is it fair to say that in the beginning you weren't that satisfied with the pace?

MARK MISCZAK, FEMA: I think that none of us were satisfied to think that we were actually meeting the need in the time frame the disaster victims would be happy with.

TUCHMAN: Not happy would describe homeless Jim Laciardi, owner of a destroyed mobile home park. So how long did you and your family own this mobile home park?

JIM LACIARDI: About 50 years.

TUCHMAN: Fifty years. So when you see it like this, see it like this four months after the hurricane, what goes through your mind?

LACIARDI: It's unbelievable. It's heartbreaking to see what we built years ago, my father and to see it like this.

TUCHMAN: Laciardi says he was told by FEMA nearly three months ago they would remove the wreckage and put its trailers in his park. He says the hookups are all ready and the price would be a lot cheaper for FEMA than land like this with no hookups but nothing's happened.

LACIARDI: There's a lot of wasted money going on down here.

TUCHMAN: After we talked with mobile park owners, FEMA had this news for us. The decision had been made to put trailers in the devastated mobile home parks.

MISCZAK: We had to make sure that it was appropriate and that it was legal and that took a little bit of time, but it certainly is an option available to us now.

TUCHMAN: While most of the residents in this hard-hit parish still wait, some seem luckier than others. But talk to Joy Melerine, who just moved into her trailer last week in front of her gutted house.

JOY MELERINE, TRAILER RESIDENTS: They put the trailer there but they wouldn't set up the utility pole to run the energy. That took over six weeks to get them to do that and someone broke in, using a key that the contractor stores here at the trailer, which I didn't know in the heater panel, they used a key and opened up my trailer and took everything inside, my furniture and household items, blankets, everything.

TUCHMAN: You were robbed in your trailer.

MELERINE: Yeah, I lost everything I owned twice in three months is how I look at it.

TUCHMAN: That's incredible.

MELERINE: It is heartbreaking.

TUCHMAN: There is no shortage of heartbreak in St. Bernard Parish.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Moving ahead now, binding the devil, laying hands and working miracles Betty. Coming up in our next hour, one Jewish photographer takes us inside a Christian tent revival. How the miracle was captured on film, helped him to define his faith. We'll be right back.

NGUYEN: This is just a prediction, but I feel that Tony is going to have another day just like yesterday, which means he's going to be sitting on the couch...

HARRIS: ...watching the game.

NGUYEN: Watching football all day long.

HARRIS: Let's see, we got two games today and the weather will be a factor in one of them.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right.

HARRIS: But the Indianapolis game is in a dome, so it's under control.

NGUYEN: Still, football weather, actually really good football weather.

HARRIS: Chicago is what we're talking about.

SCHNEIDER: Chicago, Indianapolis, it all looks good and that's good news. It's a good thing the game is not in the northeast today. That's where it's snowing and really really (INAUDIBLE).

All right, let's take a look at the football forecast now. We're going to start even though the game is inside in Indianapolis, we can show you what the weather will be like outside if you're going to be heading there to catch the game. Colts versus the Steelers in Indianapolis, we'll look for a temperature about 42 degrees when the game starts at 1:00 Eastern time.

And as we check things out in Chicago not a bad day at all, actually quite nice, partly cloudy skies. We'll look for a high temperature there about 40 degrees, 4:30 p.m. for that game. So that should keep you pretty busy out there in the world of football.

But unfortunately, up in the northeast, it is cold, brutally cold. We've got temperatures this morning with heavy snow in Albany at 20 degrees. In Boston the temperature is 28 degrees, New York City checking in at 25. Because of the strong winds, it feels so much colder than it actually is. Look at this, it feels like it's only 11 in New York City and north of Boston in the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, we're looking at wind chill factors today negative one. So I know folks in New Hampshire not in a good mood due to the Patriots loss last night.

Unfortunately the weather not going to cheer you up either. We've got snow in the forecast and brutal winds that will really be making things feel bitterly cold out there for today. Coming back to the weather map now we can show you the snow will continue across the northeast especially into Maine today as we watch for that area of low pressure to eventually work its way further off to the east. And as it does, it's pulling in much colder air behind it. And not only that, very windy weather because high pressure up in Canada is so close to our low over New England, we're getting a strong pressure gradient as the winds from the high rush to the low and boy, does that mean some wicked winds. Wind gusts will be as high as 40 miles per hour even in New York City. A couple of inches of snow for you expected and north of the city, especially into the Catskills, we could see in high elevations up to a foot of snow. So that's a lot of snow to contend with unfortunately for that part of the country.

So Betty and Tony, another area we're watching here is the fire danger and that will be for parts of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Temperatures there will be warming up once again to about 70 degrees, 72 in Dallas actually. So another day we'll be watching for strong winds as well.

NGUYEN: Warm, dry, windy, not a good combination.

SCHNEIDER: No.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Bonnie.

HARRIS: It's good to have that forecast though for the weather in Indianapolis, because of the time honored tradition of tailgating, before you get into the dome.

NGUYEN: It's not a game without tailgating. HARRIS: All right, Bonnie. Thank you.

We're talking about the King holiday this morning and the e-mail question for you on the status of the civil rights movement. Has the message of hope, peace and advancement been diluted over the years? And I'm going to tell you, I thought we would have more e-mails than this.

NGUYEN: We haven't gotten as many as we thought we would, but hopefully we keep them coming because of this. Todd in Arlington says very little has changed in the last 40 years. It's 2006 and there are plenty of examples of racism, sexism, any kind of ism you can think of. It's just subtler now.

Now, here's our question for you. Don't be subtle about it. Send us your thoughts. Has the message of hope and peace and advancement been diluted over the years? E-mail us this morning, weekends@cnn.com.

HARRIS: And the next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING begins in a moment.

NGUYEN: We're looking at live pictures right now from his funeral.

Anti-American protests across Pakistan. Thousands of people are rallying against Friday's deadly U.S. air strike in a remote Pakistani village bordering Afghanistan. Eighteen people were killed. U.S. sources say it was carried out by the CIA.

And they say Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri was the target, but there are conflicting reports on whether he was even at the site. Washington is not commenting.

The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial has handed in his resignation as presiding judge. An Iraqi tribunal official did not say whether it's been accepted. Officials also don't say why the judge wants to step down, but some say he's upset over critics who accuse him of letting the proceedings spin out of control.

And a big accomplishment for NASA. Look at that tiny little speck right there. A space capsule, that is what it is, that little light right there, carrying tiny dust particles from a comet has landed in Utah. The Stardust mother ship released the capsule about three hours ago, and if you were able to snap some pictures of it, it came in awfully quickly, but if you were able to get a picture of it, e-mail us those pictures. Weekends@CNN.com, that's the address. We'll show them throughout the morning.

A Florida teenager is declared brain dead after a police shooting at his school. We have new details from his father, who believes his life could have been spared.

From the CNN Center this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is January 15. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen

TONY HARRIS, CO-HOST: And I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for being with us.

Police believe 15-year-old Christopher Penley was on a suicide mission when he brought a pellet gun to him with Friday, threatening students and officials.

The school went into a lockdown, and SWAT was called. During the standoff, Penley was shot after pointing the pellet gun at an officer. Today Penley is clinically brain dead as a result of his injuries. He is being kept alive on life support at the request of his parents. They plan to have his organs donated.

The family attorney says Penley's father is extremely angry because his requests to speak to his son before he was shot were denied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK NATION, PENLEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: He does know that if Christopher was still alive and if he was allowed in that school, he would have been able to talk him out of it. Sean, his brother, also said, "Let me go talk to him. Let me talk to him, and he will put it down and he'll come out." And he was not allowed to do that either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: One of the first students confronted by Penley on that fateful Friday morning spoke with CNN's Carol Lin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAURICE COTEY, SEVENTH GRADER: I wish that he wouldn't have done what he did so, like, he wouldn't have been shot in the head, or anywhere. And that, like, he could have lived for -- he could have lived and changed whatever happened around and be, like, better friends with people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, here's the thing. During the standoff, an officer on the scene says Penley yelled out he wanted to kill himself or, quote, "die somehow."

NGUYEN: A service of honor, hope, and healing is held in West Virginia this afternoon. The memorial service is for the 12 miners who died in the Sago mine explosion two weeks ago. The memorial will be held in the chapel at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. ANGELA GAY KINKEAD, WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE: The community is now defined as the world, I think, in many ways. The -- there are people coming from various parts of the country. We know people coming from Kansas, from Ohio, Indiana, Alabama to honor these miners and their families and this community and support us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: Randy McCloy, the only survivor of that disaster, remains in critical condition this morning, but doctors say he is now breathing without the help of a ventilator. McCloy's family is expected to attend this afternoon's memorial. That service begins at 2 Eastern, and you can depend on CNN to bring it to you live.

Then you'll want to tune in tonight for a special "LARRY KING LIVE," "Honor, Hope and Healing," the memorial service and family members. It begins at 9 p.m. Eastern.

HARRIS: Attorney for two south Florida teens accused in this brutal beating of a homeless man are negotiating their surrender. The teens are said to have left the state. They face murder charges in the death of one homeless man and aggravated battery in the beatings of two others.

The wife of Indianapolis Colts player Nick Parker is in jail this morning on charges of cutting him with a knife. Did you hear this story? Harper's injuries aren't serious, but he's listed as questionable for today's AMC divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh. Thirty-one-year-old Danielle Harper is being held without bond on charges of battery with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness.

A county in South Carolina will celebrate Martin Luther King day tomorrow for the first time ever. Greeneville County was the last of the state's 46 counties to officially mark the birth of the civil rights pioneer. The Reverend Jesse Jackson pushed for years to get the county to change its policies. He's a Greenville native. Last night King's daughter, Bernice, spoke at the kickoff event.

And we want to hear from you this morning. Has the message of hope, peace, and advancement been diluted over the years? E-mail us your thoughts. Our address: Weekends@CNN.com.

NGUYEN: People in Kuwait are morning the death of the country's leader Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The 77-year-old emir was a key U.S. ally in the war against Iraq.

CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us now from the White House to talk about how the emir's death will affect U.S. relations with Kuwait.

Again, Elaine, this was a really strong ally for the U.S.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And first off, we should tell you no official U.S. reaction just yet, but, of course, we do anticipate some kind of statement later today.

Kuwait, of course, is a small oil-rich nation in the Middle East, occupying a strategic position in the Persian Gulf region. As you mentioned, a key ally of the U.S.

In 2003, of course, Kuwait, under the emir, served as the staging point for American forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The history of cooperation extends back to the 1991 Gulf War, back to the former Bush administration. The U.S. taking the lead role back in 1991, of course, in helping to liberate Kuwait.

So what will happen to that strong alliance between the two countries, that strong relationship? It is likely to continue under the emir's successor, his cousin. The al-Sabah family has ruled Kuwait for some time, and analysts say that they do not expect things to change -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Elaine, do you know any more about this successor? What can you tell us about him?

QUIJANO: He is a distant cousin, from what we know, and one open question is what will the Long-term plan of Kuwait be in terms of successor perhaps to this successor, because there are some problems, serious health problems that are facing this distant cousin. But for the immediate time, of course, their focus in Kuwait is on mourning the death of the emir -- Betty.

NGUYEN: No doubt. We've been showing live pictures of that funeral. Elaine Quijano at the White House. Thank you, Elaine.

HARRIS: Invited to visit a miracle tent to witness the blind see and the deaf hear. Yes, we'll talk to a photographer who was a skeptic, but actually became a believer, Betty.

NGUYEN: That's why it's called a miracle tent.

HARRIS: Good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. We are looking at blustery winds across much of the northeast this morning. In White Plains, north of New York City, we have winds already at 30 miles per hour.

And it is not a pretty day in Manchester, New Hampshire. I guess it's pretty if you're looking at it from inside, but lots of snow on the ground. More expected, with a wind chill factor of negative one degrees.

I'll have the complete forecast for the entire country. That's coming up next on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

HARRIS: On Monday a nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but will disagreements within his own family threaten his legacy? Coming up at 9 Eastern, Dr. King's daughter and Bishop Eddie Long discuss the future of the civil rights movement right here on CNN Sunday morning.

NGUYEN: OK. Want you to look hard, real hard. And you see some vehicles on the road. This is what it looked like in California's Blue Canyon yesterday when yet another snowstorm hit the Sierra Nevada mountains. All three major highways linking Sacramento to Reno, Nevada, had so much snow chains were required. Not much of a reprieve, either. More snow is headed that way on Tuesday. But I'll tell you, skiers are going to be excited about it.

HARRIS: All right. Let me see if can keep up with all this. We've got 30-odd -- we've got 189,000 days of rain in Seattle. We've got snow there...

NGUYEN: In the Sierras. We've got wind and warm temperatures for those grass fires.

HARRIS: And we have wacky music underneath, something from the '40s.

NGUYEN: Well. Bonnie.

HARRIS: And Bonnie Schneider in the weather center.

NGUYEN: That's right. To sort it all out for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: All right, Bonnie.

Well, if you're just tuning in, here's a quick look at our top stories today.

Bad weather, as we've been talking about, has forced the U.N. to suspend earthquake relief flights in Pakistan. Of course, this is abroad. Heavy rain and snow have blanketed the Kashmir region. A U.N. spokesman says flights could resume today if there is a break in the weather. The October quake killed some 87,000 people and left about a half million people homeless.

Well, if you have the flu, your best bet to fight it might be Relenza and Tamiflu. The Centers for Disease Control says they may help, but officials say two other commonly prescribed anti-virals have proved to be ineffective in fighting a dominant flu strain.

And a NASA capsule has landed in Utah after a very long journey. The capsule is carrying comet dust. That's right, stardust. It was released by the Stardust mother ship. Did you see it? Were you able to snap some pictures of it? It came in awfully quickly. E-mail us those pictures, if you've them, to Weekends@CNN.com. We'll show them throughout the morning.

HARRIS: Drama behind the scenes of today's football playoffs, and off the field. This comes from Indianapolis, where Colts quarterback Nick Harper was taken to a hospital last night with knife wounds to his knee. It's questionable whether he'll join his team for a playoff game later today against Pittsburgh. His wife, Danielle Harper, is in jail this morning charged with cutting him with a knife.

CNN's sports business analyst, Rick Horrow, joins us on the phone this morning with more.

Rick, good to talk to you. What -- Harper, is he a star for this squad?

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Well, he starts.

HARRIS: He starts? OK.

HORROW: And, of course, every -- every defensive unit needs their, you know, harmony of starters, and, of course, you remember the Indianapolis Colts have had a bye for the past two weeks. They've earned it. And they don't want disruption. Tony Dungy, the coach, runs a very tight ship with a very specific pregame routine.

And of course, they had some problems a couple of weeks ago, as you remember, because Tony Dungy's son committed suicide.

HARRIS: That's right.

HORROW: The whole team flew down for the service. So that it's been a turbulent January for the Colts, and this doesn't help.

HARRIS: I have to ask you, let me just -- a little bit more information here. There is the football story, and then there is the personal story with Harper. I'm looking at some more information on him.

And clearly, there are some problems in this relationship. He was arrested in June on a domestic battery charge in a case where police say he hit his wife. So that's -- that's the personal story, and that's something that, clearly, he needs to sort out with his wife.

But is this the kind of thing you think, from a football standpoint, that this team with Tony Dungy as the strong leader can overcome?

HORROW: Well, Tony Dungy is a great leader who's been through major personal tragedy over the last three weeks himself. But last- minute distractions don't help anything.

Remember, all-pro center Barret Robbins (ph) had a son diagnosed with bipolar. But the week before the Raiders played the Buccaneers in San Diego's Super Bowl three years ago, he was found in Tijuana, and, of course, the Raiders got waxed by Tampa Bay. Might have anyway.

And you remember a couple of years before that Atlanta Falcons quarterback (ph) Eugene Robinson had some -- had some issues with the law in Miami, and the Falcons got killed by Denver in that Super Bowl.

So there is -- there are examples of last-minute distractions that really do hurt a team. And, you know, as far as the NFL is concerned, as you know, Tony, there's $2 billion in ad revenue...

HARRIS: That's right.

HORROW: ... that's generated by the NFL every year. And we're not saying this is a major image hit, but with T.O. and some of the stuff that happened with the NFL this year, it really didn't help.

HARRIS: OK. Rick Horrow on the phone with us. Rick, thanks for your take on this. Appreciate it.

HORROW: Hey, man. Talk to you soon.

HARRIS: OK.

It started off as just another photography project, but it became an emotional and spiritual transformation, and coming up, pictures that speak about words in our "Faces of Faith."

NGUYEN: And tomorrow a nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legend. Has the message of hope, peace, and advancement been diluted over the years? That's our question today. Tell us what you think. E-mail us, Weekends@CNN.com. CNN SUNDAY MORNING returns right after this.

HARRIS: Well, it began with a newspaper ad that said "Come to the miracle tent. Come witness the blind see, the crippled walk, the deaf hear." Photographer Steven Katzman was curious, and wondered what kind of images his camera could capture. Instead, the event captured him.

In today's "Faces of Faith," an amazing story with amazing pictures found in the book "The Face of Forgiveness." Steven Katzman joins us now from New York.

Steven, good to talk to you.

STEVEN KATZMAN, PHOTOGRAPHER: It's nice to talk to you, too.

HARRIS: So it -- were you skeptical when you saw the ad? Did you wonder -- you know, because you remember the evangelist -- he may still have a show on the air -- Ernest Angley and all the miracles and on a weekly basis he was performing miracles on his television show. And it was, like, a miracle every 30 seconds on his show.

And I wonder did you buy the ad? Did you think that this was really true, or were you a bit skeptical?

KATZMAN: Well, when you're talking about Ernest, my -- my decision there was to either watch Ernest or Gordon Soli (ph) wrestling.

HARRIS: Right.

KATZMAN: So I was going back and forth between the channels here in Florida. But -- so when I saw the ad, I'm thinking, all right, this is going to be miracles with a wrestling crowd.

HARRIS: Right, right.

KATZMAN: So, obviously, I was really looking forward to that type of subject matter. And so consequently, when I -- when I arrived at the tent, not knowing what I was going to be confronted with -- I had a press badge, I had all my equipment, so, you know, the first thing -- I'm greeted, you know, "Bless you, brother," and the toothless wonder. So it was something that I was right on track as far as what I was anticipating.

HARRIS: Well, you know what, I -- you're Jewish, and, I mean, come on. What -- what really was the motivation behind this? I mean, you were trying to look beyond the veil or something? What was going on with you? Why did you want to do this?

KATZMAN: Well, most of my work is really based upon those individuals who are on the periphery of society, and so that is something that's always been an interest to me.

I was recently asked why did you get involved with photography, and I responded I read James G. Walker Evans' "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men." So it was from that ideology as far as being able to go in and photograph those less fortunate. And so this was something that I felt as a natural progression as far as where I was as a photographer.

HARRIS: Yes. Hey, you know, Steve, let's get to some of these photos before we run out of time here.

KATZMAN: Sure.

HARRIS: There is in first photo, and how would we describe this? There's a woman there clearly being moved and in tears.

KATZMAN: This is a woman who was at that first revival meeting that I photographed in Sarasota, and as soon as she entered into the tent, she started to cry. And again, this is my first shoot, so I'm rather apprehensive, and I don't want to invade her space, her privacy.

At the same time during this -- when this shot was taken, there's another woman...

HARRIS: The woman behind her.

KATZMAN: The woman -- not necessarily the one behind her, but just across the aisle sitting next to her is hysterical.

HARRIS: OK.

KATZMAN: And I'm thinking, you know, how rude is this for somebody to be violating this moment, this place where this woman has been? And I later found out, well, that's not just someone being rude, it's holy laughter, which is a new concept for me.

HARRIS: Holy laughter?

KATZMAN: Holy laughter. And consequently I had seen this other woman at other revivals, and it was the same M.O.

HARRIS: OK.

KATZMAN: She was constantly laughing. HARRIS: Another picture. Let's go to the next picture here, and this is a woman with a cane. What's going on here?

KATZMAN: Sometimes I would refer to these women as river junkies. Or I should say people as river junkies. They're not -- if they're getting what they want from one church, but go to another church. And I had photographed this woman at another church. She had not received the spirit. She came to this church, needless to say, she's doing a lot of carpet time.

HARRIS: One more picture. And then I've got one more question for you. This is picture number three, and what's going on here?

KATZMAN: This was shot in Brazil 2004, and this is the beginning of an exorcism.

HARRIS: And exorcism?

KATZMAN: Absolutely. And...

HARRIS: Cast out the evil spirit?

KATZMAN: In the name of Jesus. That's correct. Yes. And this is something that is extremely -- it's very powerful. It's frightening.

HARRIS: Yes.

KATZMAN: You can feel the evil, feel the tension, and I think it shows.

HARRIS: OK. And, quickly, what did this experience confirm for you about your faith?

KATZMAN: Prior to the beginning of "The Face of Forgiveness" I had no faith. And through this whole process I have faith. I have come to believe and pray to God. And this is something that has not only humbled me, but has given me not only an insight to myself, but an insight to other individuals.

And I believe that not only as a photographer being responsible for this type of work as a human being, I see my work as something that's much more involved with, again, helping those less fortunate than myself.

HARRIS: Do you believe in miracles?

KATZMAN: I believe in spiritual miracles and the spiritual miracle that happened to me I would say is a miracle.

HARRIS: OK. Let's put up the book again, the cover of the book, "The Face of Forgiveness." Steven Katzman, good to talk to you. And you've got an exhibit that is open now?

KATZMAN: It's open now. It's at Powerhouse Gallery in New York City at 68 Charlton. HARRIS: Steven, good to talk to you.

KATZMAN: Nice talking to you, too.

HARRIS: Thanks for talking to us.

KATZMAN: Appreciate it.

HARRIS: Streaking across the sky carrying secrets of the universe. Coming up at the top of the hour, a capsule returns to earth that could unlock some mysteries of the Solar System. We will have a live report.

NGUYEN: So fascinating. Yes. But first, a new year full of new resolutions. We all have them. Are you sticking to them? Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta follows three pairs of people as they work together to improve their health, struggling to cut calories and pump up the exercise. That's next on "HOUSE CALL."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 

LOAD-DATE: January 16, 2006


 



12.   Times-Picayune (New Orleans), “Hotels evicting Katrina evacuees; FEMA deadline snag spurs overbookings,” January 11, 2006

 

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Copyright 2006 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company

Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

 

January 11, 2006 Wednesday

 

SECTION: METRO; Pg. 1

 

LENGTH: 1115 words

 

HEADLINE: Hotels evicting Katrina evacuees;

FEMA deadline snag spurs overbookings

 

BYLINE: By Rebecca Mowbray and Susan Finch, Staff writers

 

BODY:

Displaced New Orleans resident Gilda Skinner was escorted out of the Garden District Hotel by security Tuesday evening to make way for a group of incoming guests from Tulane University, a day after FEMA issued assurances that Hurricane Katrina evacuees such as Skinner would not be evicted from hotels.

Skinner said she had been told by a front desk attendant at the St. Charles Avenue hotel that a reservation had been made for her at one of the hotel's sister properties, the Royal St. Charles Hotel or the Queen & Crescent Hotel for the next five days, and that she could return to the Garden District after the Tulane guests checked out.

But the reservation fell through.

"I don't have nowhere to go," said Skinner, who lost everything in Katrina. "The man at the front desk was so rude. He told me check out now and get my stuff off the premises, or I'll go to jail."

Skinner is one of many evacuees in local hotel rooms who are finding themselves tossed on the street as the tourism industry tries to restart regular hotel bookings while the temporary housing program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in flux. Her situation highlights the shortcomings of a program that started as a Red Cross emergency program and was never intended to go on for this long.

FEMA's hotel program, which has helped more than 700,000 families and has spent $400 million to house hurricane victims since Katrina struck Aug. 29, is winding down but has been extended because of a class-action lawsuit over the temporary housing of evacuees. The federal judge in that case issued a Dec. 12 order telling FEMA to extend the program to Feb. 7, a month beyond its previously planned end date. A hearing in that evacuee hotel housing lawsuit is scheduled for today at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval.

Postponing the end date of the program has caused problems at local hotels, which had started accepting reservations for weddings, leisure travelers and parents of incoming university students after Jan. 7. Hotels have now found themselves overbooked and in the difficult situation of having to ask hurricane evacuees to leave or turn away tourists as the industry is trying to restart and gear up for Mardi Gras.

FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said his agency doesn't want people to end up on the streets. But there is little his agency can do about the situations that are cropping up with the 9,500 rooms that are still rented to hurricane victims around Louisiana because hotels are under no obligation to continue to house evacuees.

"We can't stop the hotels from going back to their standard business practices," McIntyre said.

FEMA: Verify eligibility

When evacuees run into this situation, they should call (800) 621-FEMA, McIntyre said. FEMA needs to make sure they are eligible for continued assistance, because people who were homeless before the storm or who were not officially part of a household that was affected by the storm are ineligible for additional help and will be referred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If they are eligible for help, McIntyre said the evacuees will be put in touch with FEMA community relations in New Orleans for help in finding another place to live.

Skinner said she did ask FEMA community relations people for help, but they had no suggestions. "There's FEMA people, and they said there's nothing they can do," she said.

McIntyre acknowledged that with housing in short supply, it's not easy to place evacuees in the estimated 22,000 hotel rooms that are open in the New Orleans area when contractors and insurance adjusters also are competing for the rooms.

McIntyre said he could not speak to Skinner's particular situation because he didn't know whether she is eligible for assistance, but the best that FEMA could do is try to place her in another hotel room, on a ship or in a trailer in north Louisiana: options that may require more than a moment's notice for response.

Activists blame FEMA

The Garden District Hotel would not confirm the situation. "I really can't make a comment on it because I'm not aware of anyone being kicked out," said Chris Banko, director of sales at the hotel. Banko said he would look into Skinner's situation but did not call back by deadline.

Meanwhile, advocates for evacuees staying in hotels at government expense said Tuesday that blame for the plight of Skinner and others like her rests with FEMA.

"The mistake is due to FEMA's failure to notify those hotels about the temporary restraining order that extended the program," said lawyer Bryan Mauldin, president of From the Lake to the River, a nonprofit group that has been monitoring the government's handling of relief for hurricane survivors.

Mauldin said it wasn't until Jan. 2 that FEMA sent the hotels faxes informing them that the program had been extended to Feb. 7. FEMA officials, she said, knew the hotels were making plans based on their understanding that the program would end Jan. 7.

"The message they (FEMA) are sending is that they're not really attempting to help evacuees. They're trying to save face and make the problem go away," Mauldin said.

New York lawyer Howard Godnick, part of the legal team handling the evacuees' class-action case, said situations such as Skinner's are the upshot of "FEMA's refusal to deal with this on a long-term basis."

"Every two weeks, there's a new rule," making for uncertainty for both evacuees and hotels, he said.

Hotels caught in crossfire

Darrius Gray, acting president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, says he worries that as conflicts between evacuees and regular incoming guests become more contentious, hotels may decide they no longer want to house FEMA guests.

Over the weekend, Gray said he found himself overbooked by about 80 rooms at the Holiday Inn French Quarter, where he is the general manager. Gray said it took him four days to find neighboring hotels to take 55 of his room reservations, and he ended up sending the remaining 25 bookings to a Days Inn. Accommodating everyone wasn't easy.

"I did more incoming guests than evacuees, but I did a combination of both," Gray said. "My intent was to take care of the evacuees."

Hotels are uncomfortable with being caught in the crossfire of the housing crisis. To manage the situation better, Gray said the hotel association may need to devise a formal way for hotels to share information about what properties are overbooked and what properties have rooms.

"The hotels are under increased pressure to address this," Gray said.

. . . . . . .

Rebecca Mowbray can be reached at rmowbray@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3417. Susan Finch can be reached at sfinch@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3340.

 

LOAD-DATE: January 11, 2006


 



13.   Los Angeles Times, “The Price of Katrina Hospitality; States with evacuees try to add up the costs, but variables persist: How many will stay? Who? 'We never envisioned' this, a Texas official says,” January 1, 2006

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Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

All Rights Reserved

Los Angeles Times

 

January 1, 2006 Sunday 

Home Edition

 

SECTION: MAIN NEWS; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 1

 

LENGTH: 1234 words

 

HEADLINE: The Price of Katrina Hospitality;

States with evacuees try to add up the costs, but variables persist: How many will stay? Who? 'We never envisioned' this, a Texas official says.

 

BYLINE: Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

 

BODY:

Overtime for workers processing a deluge of food-stamp applications. A satellite dish to bring Internet access to a summer-camp-turned-shelter. New textbooks and teachers. Dialysis. Chemotherapy. Security deposits for rented apartments.

As they plan budgets for 2006, officials in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and elsewhere are first calculating the costs of providing for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

They've come up with some daunting numbers -- and questions.

Although they expect reimbursement from the federal government for many expenses, officials say they aren't sure how much they will receive or when the money will arrive.

More vexing for budget planners is uncertainty about the evacuees: How many will stay in their adoptive states, how many will find work and become self-sufficient, how many will continue to need public aid -- and for how long?

Georgia legislators recently warned that medical and education costs could rise $100 million next fiscal year if the 44,000 evacuees in the state decided to stay.

Texas officials say the evacuee population of 400,000 could cost the state as much as $550 million next fiscal year. They're hoping the federal government will step up reimbursement.

"We're not being mercenary about this, but we want to bring it to the attention of Congress and the administration," said Texas Homeland Security Director Steven McCraw. "We want to provide first-class care to our neighbors. On the other hand, we don't want to be disproportionately penalized because we opened our arms....

"We never envisioned, nor had we planned on, taking nearly half a million people into our state virtually overnight," McCraw said.

Even states that have taken in fewer Katrina survivors face challenges, especially with ongoing healthcare needs.

In Nebraska, for instance, the lead agency helping 166 evacuees airlifted from New Orleans to Omaha spent $200,000 to help settle them in motels and to take care of urgent medical problems as diverse as snakebites and depression. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover many of those expenditures.

But FEMA will not cover the types of calls Beverly Griffith still gets daily -- from evacuees who don't qualify for state Medicaid insurance but need a cab ride to a doctor's appointment, or pain pills for an aching back, or an X-ray on a swollen arm.

She is director of the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, which has nearly drained its reserve fund; Griffith is not sure what she'll do when the money is gone, except keep helping as best she can.

"We don't feel it's right to bring them into our community and then not give them ongoing support," she said.

The federal government has agreed to pay five months of Medicaid insurance for evacuees in several hard-hit states. The federal Treasury will also cover at least several months -- and possibly up to a full year -- of educational costs associated with Katrina evacuees.

Many who stay beyond that point will presumably settle into their new states as productive citizens, paying at least as much in taxes as they take in services.

"I don't see any reason these folks can't be absorbed," said Bernard L. Weinstein, director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas.

"They are already making purchases, finding jobs, adding to the tax base," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's press secretary, Heather Hedrick.

But some analysts warn that the new host states can expect swelling social-service caseloads.

"I think it's almost guaranteed that those who stay will be those with the least economic opportunity ... the people who don't have anyplace else to go," said Barton Smith, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston.

If, as he expects, the disabled, elderly and impoverished stay in disproportionate numbers, "it will likely put a net burden on the Houston economy for several years to come," Smith said.

The chief executive of Texas' Harris County, which includes Houston, says that a substantial number of Katrina evacuees have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, coronary disease or mental-health issues, and require care at public hospitals.

"On balance," said the chief executive, Judge Robert Eckels, the evacuee influx "should be good for our community."

"But some costs will fall directly upon the property-tax payers of Harris County," he said.

Charities will also continue to bear a heavy cost as they fill public-service gaps.

In Baton Rouge, La., which has taken in about 50,000 evacuees from nearby New Orleans, local aid groups such as Catholic Charities say they're getting double or even triple their typical volume of calls, as families plead for help with utility bills, prescription drugs and groceries. The free afternoon lunch at the St. Vincent de Paul Society has been packed; attendance is up nearly 25% over this time last year.

And though aid workers haven't yet done a formal census -- that's scheduled for this month -- they are certain the number of homeless in Louisiana's capital has soared.

Some on Baton Rouge streets were homeless in New Orleans before Katrina. Others had more settled lives in New Orleans but can't find housing in a city crammed with evacuees and construction crews. Then there are the longtime Baton Rouge residents forced out by rising rents caused by the housing shortage.

"Some people were barely making a $350-a-month payment on a small affordable apartment, so when the rent goes up to $400 or $425, they become homeless. And we just don't have any housing to put them in," said Randy K. Nichols, executive director of the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless.

"This is going to be a long-term issue," Nichols said. "It's difficult to think it will be anything less than 10 years."

Though FEMA does not reimburse private charities for aid efforts, the federal government has appropriated $11.5 billion in community development block grants to states affected by the hurricane. Local governments can use the grants to support charities or their own social service agencies.

In Georgia, agency directors have been bombarding the Republican governor in recent weeks with pleas for more money to meet evacuees' needs. Perdue has said he should be able to meet their requests without much juggling, thanks to an unexpected surge in state tax collection.

"We don't anticipate draconian cuts elsewhere in the budget," said Hedrick, his press secretary.

Georgia House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, a Democrat, is not reassured. "When we raise the question of cost, they answer, somewhat flippantly, 'Oh, FEMA's going to take care of that.' But I have yet to see what FEMA will take care of."

A few states report prompt and extensive reimbursement from FEMA. "We have not had any problems," said Connie Atkinson, financial officer for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

Other states, however, remain mired in uncertainty, in part because their officials have not yet compiled a definitive list of Katrina expenses. That's part of the job legislators will face when they return to work after the winter break.

And few expect the political debates to end when this fall's costs are tallied.

"With 750,000 displaced households," said Matt Fellowes, a senior research associate at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution think tank, "there's no doubt that this spending issue will be with us for a long time forward."

 

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: FAMILY: Sisters Quanell, left, and Quana Dunham reunite in San Antonio days after the Aug. 29 hurricane. An official said Texas took "nearly half a million people into our state virtually overnight."  PHOTOGRAPHER: Bob Owen San Antonio Express-News

 

LOAD-DATE: January 1, 2006


 



14.   The Salt Lake Tribune, “A LOOK BACK AT THE YEAR,” December 29, 2005

 

364 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2005 The Salt Lake Tribune

All Rights Reserved

The Salt Lake Tribune

 

December 29, 2005 Thursday

 

SECTION: SPORTS;  Pg. A8

 

LENGTH: 2894 words

 

HEADLINE: A LOOK BACK AT THE YEAR

 

BODY:

Hurricane Katrina

Storm evacuees landed in Utah -- and some stayed

Utahns opened their hearts, their homes and their wallets to hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in early September after the costliest and most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history.

Nearly four months later, an estimated 400 survivors remain, trying to carve out a future in the Beehive State.

Overall, Katrina left about 1,000 dead, 1 million displaced and $200 billion to $300 billion in damage. But the storm's true toll is still being written by the hundreds of thousands who remain exiled in states such as Utah.

Some may put down roots where they landed. Others are waiting to be told it's safe to return home. But it could be months, possibly years, before the worst-hit areas are habitable. Meanwhile, the flow of aid to survivors has slowed to a trickle.

Come March 1, Utah no longer will provide free housing to hurricane survivors, who must apply to the federal government for housing assistance.

It wasn't all bad ... or was it?

Retail

The good news: Cabela's 175,000-square-foot megastore near Point of the Mountain is expected to draw more visitors than Zion National Park, Lake Powell and Lagoon combined.

The bad news: The new Cabela's is expected to draw more visitors than Zion National Park, Lake Powell and Lagoon combined.

The really bad news: That includes relatives of fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs (and you thought all that camouflage gear wouldn't sell).

Resources

The good news: In May, a tiny oil company from Michigan boasts of a discovery 130 miles south of Salt Lake City, saying the area just outside of Sigurd eventually could yield a billion barrels of crude.

The bad news: It might be 10 years before we find out if the folks at Wolverine Gas & Oil Corp. are right.

The really bad news: It won't be that long before Sigurd gets a Starbucks.

Sports

The good news: Utah lands its second major-league sports franchise (Real Salt Lake) and a soccer superstar (Clint Mathis) to lead the team. 

The bad news: Mathis and RSL struggle to score en route to the league's second-worst record.

The really bad news: Mathis is gone and, for stadium-seeking Salt Lake City, so is RSL -- to Sandy.

Faith

The good news: For Mormons, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley's challenge to read the 531-page Book of Mormon by year's end is history.

The bad news: All that Scripture-study cut into members' reading of other books. 

The really bad news: What if the popularity of his Book of Mormon challenge sparks Hinckley to issue a similar appeal for this year's course of study: the 1,184-page Old Testament?

Rough start, scandal, yellow jersey and more

The governor

Learning curve: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. gets off to a rocky start, firing state economic development workers and turning over their jobs to the Economic Development Corp. of Utah. He then is outmaneuvered by lawmakers during the 2005 Legislature and loses two key advisers -- his chief of staff and spokeswoman. At the same time, the fledgling governor distinguishes himself by nursing a settlement on Legacy Highway, pledging to veto any expansion of Envirocare's radioactive waste landfill and refocusing legislators on a 5 percent income tax.

Salt Lake County

Scandal a day helps reformers make hay: On the heels of 2004's guzzler-gate scandal, Salt Lake County uncovers abuses in tuition programs, hiring practices, purchase orders and timecard records. The county's fleet manager is ousted and the personnel director announces his retirement.

Historic moment

Utahn in yellow: Cyclist Dave Zabriskie captures the Tour de France's yellow jersey after winning the opening stage in July. He is just the third American to lead the race. Zabriskie surrenders the jersey to Lance Armstrong after a crash in Stage 4.

Oddities

Bettor Business Bureau: Patrick McDermott, Town Council chairman in the tiny southern Utah town of Bluff, temporarily considers changing the community's name to PokerShare.com in exchange for $100,000 before folding on the idea.

Store wars: Wal-Mart's image takes a beating from release of scathing documentary and internal memos describing ways to reduce the already-paltry health benefits for employees. Utahns respond by giving the go-ahead to new Wal-Marts in, among other places, Sandy, Centerville and Riverton.

Transportation

Legacy Parkway could become a reality in '06

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a measure Nov. 14 paving the way for construction to resume -- possibly by May -- on the long-stalled Legacy Parkway. 

The Legislature ratified the accord, reached through negotiations between the state and environmentalists. The agreement expands a planned nature preserve and means Davis County will get a jump start on a new TRAX line and a bus rapid-transit system. 

The four-lane roadway could start carrying motorists by 2008.

Finances

Going (for) broke: New bankruptcy laws take effect, making it harder and more expensive for Americans to erase debts and start over. Utahns, who already lead the nation in per-household bankruptcies, respond with a mad rush to the courthouse to beat the deadline.

Radio daze: Managers of public radio stations KCPW/KPCW take to the air to justify their finances after The Salt Lake Tribunereveals that the nonprofit stations' longtime managers, Blair and Susan Feulner, reaped more than $700,000 in salary from 2001 through 2003.

Roads less graveled: Reports surface that Uintah County labeled hundreds of miles of "dirt" roads as "gravel" roads, helping the eastern Utah county capture hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep funding.

Record runoff threatened Utah's Dixie

Floodwaters swamped the Santa Clara and Virgin rivers in and around St. George in January, killing one man, washing away homes, ripping up roads, knocking down bridges and forcing dozens to flee.

In the eyes of some, the flooding was compounded by the federal government's refusal to allow residents to clear the rivers. Others argued it was aggravated by homes built too close to flood zones.

"Everybody loves to live by a babbling brook," said Ron Thompson, manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District. "But nobody wants to live by a raging torrent."

President Bush declared a federal disaster in the devastated region and other areas downstream as damage topped $200 million to public and private property in Washington County.

Flooding from record runoff returned to the region in the summer, along with wind-whipped wildfires, threatening several towns, including tiny Gunlock -- again -- and New Harmony.

Airline Industry

Delta went bankrupt, aims to emerge stronger

Delta Air Lines' turbulent year hit a new low Sept. 14, when the nation's third-largest carrier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

While Delta had been struggling for months, it was Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in August and drove jet fuel prices to record highs, that forced the Atlanta-based company to seek protection from its creditors.

Within a week, Delta announced a plan to cut annual expenses by $3 billion on top of the $5 billion in annual benefits the company expects to deliver by 2006. The airline intends to eliminate 7,000 to 9,000 jobs, trim domestic capacity by as much as 20 percent and increase more profitable international flying by 25 percent.

The plan included a bombshell: nearly $1 billion in pay cuts. On Nov. 1, non-union workers saw their pay and benefits slashed by $605 million. Pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, threatened to strike if a bankruptcy court allowed the airline to void its pilot contract and impose $325 million in concessions. This week, pilots agreed to accept a compromise interim agreement that provides for a 14 percent hourly wage reduction and reductions in other pay equal to another 1 percent. 

The bottom line: Delta plans to emerge from bankruptcy in two years as a leaner, healthier airline able to compete with low-cost carriers that have sliced into its market share. So far, the carrier's hub in Salt Lake City has been spared any major disruption.

Utahns at war

Rebels took a hit, but a long road is ahead

While pressures mount to find a way to bring home U.S. troops, many Utahns in Iraq worry that a job left half done will result in ruin for the nation they occupy and peril for the nation they're from.

From the ground, Utah commanders say, it appears the occupation is thwarting Iraq's insurgency -- but the fight remains in the early rounds. 

Meanwhile, recruiters in Utah have had to increase their own ranks to meet goals for signing up more volunteers, and the military has extended the active enlistments of hundreds of troops from deploying units to ensure full combat strength -- this in a state where support for the war is among the highest in the nation and whose reservists maintain relatively high morale.

The 872nd Maintenance Company -- wrench turners by trade -- runs protective convoys from Mosul to the Turkish border. The 222nd Field Artillery has one battery shooting its guns, while hundreds of other soldiers patrol the gates of Camp Ramadi or stand watch at desert observation posts. The 146th Transportation Company runs nightly missions through Al Anbar Province. And the 115th Maintenance Company spent the first half of its tour adjusting to a maintenance mission for which it was not designed in Najaf and now is adjusting once again to a new mission, new command and new base farther south.

They fight on. And many argue that, if Iraq is to survive and America is to be safe, they will be fighting for years to come.

Killed in Action: Eight men with Utah ties died in Iraq this year. Rest in peace: Matthew Smith, Rocky Payne, Tenzin Chuku Dengkhim, Brandon Thomas, Michael Lehmiller, Kenneth Webb, Lex Nelson, Tim Boyce.

Missing Scout

After four nights alone, Brennan went home safe

Brennan Hawkins, an 11-year-old boy from Bountiful, disappeared from a Boy Scout camp and spent four nights in the Uinta Mountains before rescuers found him alive and well. 

On June 17, Brennan was with a friend at East Fork of the Bear River Scout Reservation. Brennan tried to go to supper but took a wrong trail and became lost. Search teams were dispatched within a few hours. By June 21, an estimated 3,000 people  --  some coming from as far as Hawaii  --  had helped search on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicle. 

That morning, Forrest Nunley, a Salt Lake City house painter who skipped work to search, was riding his ATV up a trail 2 1/2 miles from the camp when he spotted Brennan standing in the middle of the trail, soaking wet, sunburned and hungry. The boy soon was reunited with his family and elation spread through the searchers and the state. 

Brennan's return reversed a series of Uinta Mountain disappearances that ended or were believed to have ended in death. It also spurred discussion about how to help prevent children from getting lost in the wilds. 

Polygamy

State cracked down on Jeffs and other FLDS members

Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs ended the year as a wanted man.

The elusive leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was indicted June 9 for allegedly marrying a 16-year-old girl to a 28-year-old man, a charge that resulted from a two-state crackdown on the polygamist sect. Utah and Arizona are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs' arrest.

Eight other men in the FLDS community also were charged with various sex crimes for their alleged marriages to minor girls.

Utah and Arizona authorities also successfully petitioned to have the trustees of an FLDS trust fund replaced by an independent supervisor. In December, a judge appointed an advisory board to help the supervisor protect the trust's assets.

The Utah Police Officer Standards and Training Board decertified Hildale Town Marshal Sam Roundy and Officer Vance Barlow in March, after an investigation by the Attorney General's Office into an allegation that as many as half the force's officers were practicing polygamy, a felony under state law. 

In addition, a longtime Hildale justice court judge faces possible removal after acknowledging being a polygamist.

Some of 2005's notable deaths

Jack Anderson, legendary newspaper muckraker

Mikhail Boguslavsky, violist

Milly Bernard, former Utah legislator 

Dave Blackwell, sports journalist 

Eva Westover Conover, former Utah legislator 

Lee Deffebach, artist

Zane Armond Doyle, founder of Brighton Resort

Harold Mayo Gottfredson, trombonist

Alberta Henry, former NAACP chapter president 

Thomas Herrion, University of Utah football great

Robert H. "Colonel" Hinckley Jr., political scientist 

Grant Johannesen, pianist

Swanny Kerby, rodeo stockman

Tom Kingsford, Southern Utah University football coach

Janice Levitt, filmmaker

Sandra Lloyd, former Riverton Mayor 

Ed Maryon, artist

LeRay L. McAllister, former Utah legislator

Jim Moore, baseball umpire

Bob Olpin, art historian

Gean Plaga, West High football coach

Katharine Clark Reilly, actress-producer

Scott Sneddon, former Ogden mayor 

Willie Sojourner, Weber State basketball great

Robert Steiner, businessman

Ron Tree, Wasatch High football coach

Carla Wood, mezzo-soprano

Ralph Woodward, choral conductor

2005 Timeline

January

1: The BCS-buster Utes thump Pitt in the New Year's Day Fiesta Bowl.

3: Jon Huntsman Jr. becomes Utah's governor Jan. 3, while Peter Corroon takes over a scandal-weary Salt Lake County.

26: Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt on Jan. 26 moves from EPA boss to Health and Human Services secretary. 

Floods swamp southwestern Utah, leaving more than $200 million in damage.

February

Envirocare is sold to an investor group in early February.

10: Jurors clear former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman on Feb. 10. 

17: Scientists report dangerous levels of mercury in Great Salt Lake.

March

A record eight people die in avalanche season.

6: A railroad tanker car leaks a cocktail of chemicals March 6, forcing 6,000 South Salt Lake residents to flee.

8: Governor signs bill March 8 requiring undocumented residents to obtain "driving privilege card" instead of a driver license.

21: U. of U. board of trustees approves a new accommodations policy on March 21.

April

15: Mark Hacking is sentenced April 15 to six to life for murdering his wife, Lori Hacking.

19: Crews recover bodies of two BYU students April 19 from a remote Garfield County canyon.

19: Yvette Donosso Diaz is confirmed April 19 as state's first Latina department head.

May

Paleontologists announce the discovery of new dinosaur breed, falcarius utahensis, unearthed in southern Utah.

1: Runoff-rich Bear River floods farmland May 1 in Box Elder and Cache counties.

13: Hill Air Force Base dodges Pentagon's latest round of base closures May 13.

June

9: Nationwide manhunt begins after polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is indicted June 9 for allegedly arranging a plural marriage.

21: Rescuers find Brennan Hawkins on June 21 after the Bountiful 11-year-old went missing for four nights in the Uinta Mountains.

28: The U. makes history June 28 as the first school to produce the top picks in the NBA and NFL drafts in the same year as center Andrew Bogut goes No. 1, two months after quarterback Alex Smith went first.

July

Summer wildfires ravage Utah's Dixie.

11: Fire destroys Wasatch Junior High on July 11.

12: Crews capture elusive Clem the Alligator on July 12 along Arizona strip.

24: Tribune reports July 24 that Mormon majority is shrinking in Utah.

August

10: A spectacular truck explosion Aug. 10 leaves a crater on U.S. 6.

18: Four Utah County teens drown Aug. 18 in an underground Provo tunnel.

22: Anti-war protesters, including Mayor Rocky Anderson, greet President Bush during his Aug. 22 visit to Salt Lake City.

23: Heidi Mattingly Foster is reunited Aug. 23 with six of her 11 children.

25: Cabela's opens Aug. 25 in Lehi.

26: Mayor Rocky Anderson fires longtime aide Deeda Seed on Aug. 26.

September

Hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees arrive in Utah in early September.

9: NRC approves a license Sept. 9 for Goshutes' Skull Valley nuclear-waste site.

14: Delta files for bankruptcy protection Sept. 14.

21: Rocky Anderson signs an executive order Sept. 21 extending domestic-partner benefits.

26: A USU van rolls Sept. 26, killing eight students and a teacher.

October

3: Federal appeals court on Oct. 3 rejects the ACLU's Main Street Plaza appeal.

4: Electronic voting machines debut in Farmington's Oct. 4 primary. 

12: Sandy wins Real Salt Lake's soccer stadium sweepstakes on Oct. 12.

17: Utahns rush to the courthouse before Oct. 17's stricter bankruptcy laws take effect.

November

8: Sandy voters narrowly approve big-box stores Nov. 8 in Utah's first-ever "Wal-Mart referendum."

14: Governor signs deal Nov. 14 paving the way for long-stalled Legacy Parkway. 

14: District attorney clears Rocky Anderson on Nov. 14 of improper spending during Turin trip. 

15: Enrollment begins Nov. 15 for landmark, but confusing, Medicare prescription coverage.

December

1: Federal judge sentences Charlissa Sireech on Dec. 1 to nearly 20 years in prison for brutally beating her two grandsons.

6: Salt Lake City wins a world leadership award on Dec. 6.

15: Pope appoints Utah's Catholic Bishop George H. Niederauer on Dec. 15 as archbishop of San Francisco.

20: "Kane mutiny" is quelled Dec. 20 as county leaders reach tentative deal over signs in and around the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

 

GRAPHIC: Jim Urquhart/The Salt Lake Tribune  Katrina evacuees (no published caption)

  Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune  Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s signature on Nov. 14 cleared the way for the long-maligned Legacy Highway project.

 Cabela's opening (no published caption)

 Dave Zabriskie (no published caption) Gordon B. Hinckley (no published caption)

 Soccer ball (no published caption)

  Money bag (no published caption)

  Jump page A9: Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune  Truck driver Spc. Tara Earl, of Logan, cleans the mirrors on her uparmored M915 tanker truck in September. She is one of many Utahns in Iraq.

  Brennan Hawkins (no published caption)

  Warren Jeffs (no published caption)

  Delta Air Lines plane (no published caption)

  Flood damaged home (no published caption)

  Timeline Photos: A8: Jon Huntsman Jr.

 Nancy Workman

 Scientists report dangerous levels of mercury in Great Salt Lake.

 Driving privilege card

 Mark Hacking

 Yvette Donosso Diaz

 falcarius utahensis

 Warren Jeffs

 A9: alligator

 Heidi Mattin

 

LOAD-DATE: December 29, 2005


 



15.   THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “Evacuees facing holidays in hotels 24,000 in Texas are still seeking housing as FEMA efforts slow,” December 22, 2005

 

444 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2005 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

 

December 22, 2005 Thursday 

SECOND EDITION

 

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1A

 

LENGTH: 915 words

 

HEADLINE: Evacuees facing holidays in hotels 24,000 in Texas are still seeking housing as FEMA efforts slow

 

BYLINE: KIM HORNER, Staff Writer

 

BODY:

All Vikki Jackson wants this Christmas is to move out of the cramped hotel room she shares with her three children.

The New Orleans hurricane evacuee and her kids - Jasmine, 16, Quandra, 12, and Quincy, 9 - have been living at the Country Inn & Suites in Far North Dallas since Sept. 29.

The Jacksons, who have been searching for an apartment for weeks, were among about 24,000 hurricane evacuees in Texas hotels on Wednesday. The family hoped to sign a lease on a Richardson apartment today or Friday with a voucher through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But Ms. Jackson said her children are trying not to get excited because other places have turned them down.

"It's been too long for us being here, and we need to be settled somewhere," she said.

FEMA's efforts to move thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees into apartments have slowed as the holidays approach.

The deadline, originally Dec. 1, was recently extended to Feb. 7.

The agency reported Wednesday that an estimated 24,400 evacuees were living in 12,200 hotel rooms statewide, down slightly from 13,282 rooms one week ago. That includes about 5,000 evacuees in North Texas. The agency had an estimated 51,000 evacuees in 20,000 rooms statewide when the push began in mid-November.

But many of the evacuees left in hotels are tough cases, and some have special needs including disabilities, health problems and language barriers to overcome, FEMA officials said. In some areas, particularly Beaumont, there aren't enough rental units to go around. In addition, some evacuees just moved into hotels after wearing out a welcome with a relative, officials said.

Evacuees may feel less urgency since the hotel deadline was pushed back after a court ruling. FEMA officials said Wednesday that they are still trying to move people out of hotels as fast as possible.

FEMA teams

"Strike teams" continue to visit hundreds of hotels across Texas to check on evacuees' progress and help with the transition to more permanent housing.

Some evacuees may be avoiding the strike teams altogether, FEMA officials said. They refuse to answer calls or move from hotel to hotel, possibly fearing eviction.

And the agency, which soon plans to require new registration numbers to prevent fraud, believes a small number of hotel dwellers are using fake identification to get free rooms.

FEMA officials said Wednesday that they believe the hotel numbers are inflated and will decrease when the agency receives the next cycle of bills from hotels. It is possible that evacuees who have checked out are still on FEMA's hotel list.

Ms. Jackson said she did not move earlier because several landlords said they would not rent to someone without a job. She plans to restart a home-based business she ran in New Orleans doing administrative work for law firms - but first, she said, she needs a home.

Mike Sweet, a FEMA spokesman, said her job status should not prevent her from getting an apartment. He tried to help speed the process during a visit from the strike team by talking to a potential landlord on the phone.

"We'd love to have them in there so they can celebrate Christmas in their new home," he said.

Strike team workers visited several other evacuees Tuesday, including Ms. Jackson's brother, Melvin Bernard. He has been staying at the Comfort Suites across the parking lot from his sister's hotel for weeks. Mr. Bernard doesn't want to settle in Dallas and has applied for a FEMA trailer in New Orleans.

But strike team members are trying to persuade him to get an apartment during the interim.

'I miss New Orleans'

"I really want to go back home," said Mr. Bernard, who had to be rescued by helicopter from the roof of his flooded Upper Ninth Ward home. "I miss New Orleans."

Most of Mr. Bernard's and Ms. Jackson's nine siblings also ended up in the Dallas area. Their oldest sister, Cheryl Bernard, lives at the New Orleans Apartments in Richardson, where Ms. Jackson hopes to move so her kids do not have to switch schools a fourth time.

For now, bags of clothes, cans of soup, Pringles, pickles and other food cover available space on the dresser, desk and floor of the Jacksons' small room with two double beds. Two Styrofoam coolers serve as refrigerators. The family plays Bible games and watches DVDs to pass the time. Given such cramped quarters, Jasmine said she has never looked so forward to going to school.

"I have to go to school because this room is depressing," she said. "The only privacy we can really get is when we are in the bathroom."

The room has no Christmas decorations. Gifts are out of the question this year. Jasmine, Quandra and Quincy did not even show up for school on some of the coldest days recently because they had no winter clothes. When their schools found out, officials donated jackets and sweaters.

Jeanie Giagni, sales manager at Country Inn & Suites in Dallas, said her hotel plans a Christmas dinner on Sunday for the 20 or so still there.

"Many of ours have taken on the role of extended family members," she said. "We're going to miss them when they're gone."

Christmas plans

But the Jacksons also plan to spend Christmas at their relatives' apartment. Ms. Jackson said there would be reason to celebrate after such a turbulent year of hurricanes, shelters, hotels and - hopefully soon - an apartment.

"We're just thankful to have each other right now," Ms. Jackson said. "There's nothing we can do right now. I promised my kids when we do get settled, we'll have something nice."

E-mail khorner@dallasnews.com

 

GRAPHIC: PHOTO(S): 1. (BRAD LOPER/Staff Photographer) Katrina evacuee Melvin Bernard flips through a FEMA handout at his Dallas hotel. He is eager to return to New Orleans. 2. (BRAD LOPER/Staff Photographer) FEMA community relations officer Cheryl Deroche (right) goes over paperwork with Katrina evacuee Vikki Jackson at the Country Inn & Suites hotel in Far North Dallas. CHART(S): IN NORTH TEXAS.

 

LOAD-DATE: December 22, 2005


 



16.   Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat (Oklahoma), “Judge orders one-month extension of FEMA hotel program for K,” December 19, 2005

 

477 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

Copyright 2005 Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat (Muskogee, OK)

All Rights Reserved 

Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat (Oklahoma)

 

December 19, 2005 Monday

 

LENGTH: 744 words

 

HEADLINE: Judge orders one-month extension of FEMA hotel program for K

 

BODY:

Eds: UPDATE with Justice Department spokesman saying no decision made on appeal, details on Hurricane Rita victims; detail on elections

By KEVIN McGILL

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge ruled Monday that a program that is putting tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees up in hotels must be extended until Feb. 7 - a month beyond the cutoff date set by FEMA.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said victims must be given more time in hotels because FEMA cannot guarantee that all applications for other aid, such as rent assistance or trailers, will be processed by the agency's Jan. 7 deadline.

The temporary restraining order was part of a class-action lawsuit filed in November by advocates for hurricane victims.

Attorneys pressing the lawsuit had argued that sticking to a January deadline would mean homelessness for thousands of evacuees.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to pick up the tab for about 41,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District of Columbia at an estimated cost so far of about $350 million. In addition, the agency has provided rental assistance to more than 500,000 families who lost their homes to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said.

The agency "will review the judge's decision and continue to reach out to help those evacuated get the help they need as they get back on their feet," she said.

The agency had set a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the hotel program but extended it to Dec. 15 after widespread criticism. In addition, 10 states - Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas - were allowed to apply for extensions that effectively stretched the deadline to Jan. 7 for most evacuees.

Duval ruled that those who have not yet received FEMA aid to rent an apartment or move into a trailer can stay in their government-paid hotel rooms until two weeks after their application is approved or denied. But he said everyone will have to be out by Feb. 7 at the latest, unless FEMA decides to extend the deadline again.

Duval noted that even those who have FEMA rent money in hand are finding it difficult to find housing in some areas.

"FEMA cannot assure the court that it will process all or most of the applications of the persons living in hotels and-or motels by Jan. 7, 2006," Duval wrote. "The court is convinced that many persons in the putative class will be irreparably harmed by FEMA's admitted inability to process the pending applications."

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, which defended FEMA in the lawsuit, said no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

Lawyers for evacuees said victims often got conflicting information about when they would have to leave. At a hearing Friday, one hotel occupant, Lenora Brantley, said she received a letter dated Dec. 2 telling her she could stay in her hotel room until Jan. 7. Later she got a Dec. 5-dated letter telling her she would have to leave by Dec. 15.

"It is unimaginable what anxiety and misery these erratic and bizarre vacillations by FEMA have caused these victims, all of whom, for at least one point in time, had the very real fear of being without shelter for Christmas," Duval said.

Duval's ruling dealt only with Hurricane Katrina victims who applied for FEMA aid, not victims of Hurricane Rita. But attorney Howard Godnick, one of the lawyers who brought the lawsuit, said the decision sets a precedent that Rita victims could use to fight eviction from a hotel, if necessary.

The plaintiffs did not get everything they sought. Duval refused to order that FEMA act immediately on more than 84,000 aid applications still listed as "pending." He said federal law is unclear on when FEMA must act on such applications.

In Baton Rouge, Gov. Kathleen Blanco released an order Monday that postpones the New Orleans mayoral election indefinitely.

Secretary of State Al Ater, the state's top elections official, had recommended the postponement, saying the city is incapable of holding primaries in February because of widespread damage to polling sites and voting machines.

The order, which was signed Friday, did not set a new date for the elections, saying only that they should be held "as soon as practicable." The postponement affects races for mayor, sheriff and city council seats.

---

Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this story.

 

LOAD-DATE: December 20, 2005


 



17.   The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Holidays further isolate Katrina evacuees; Their feelings of loss can be overwhelming,” December 17, 2005

 

513 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2005 The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune

 

December 17, 2005 Saturday

 

SECTION: ZONE; Pg. NC-2

 

LENGTH: 518 words

 

HEADLINE: Holidays further isolate Katrina evacuees;

Their feelings of loss can be overwhelming

 

BYLINE: Elena Gaona, STAFF WRITER

 

BODY:

Even Hurricane Katrina families that are apparently making progress in recasting their lives are struggling with loneliness, hopelessness and even suicide, crisis experts say.

And as the holidays approach, times may get even tougher, said Marcia Ayers, manager of the San Diego County Access and Crisis Line that is fielding calls from evacuees.

"Any time you have a holiday season, whether it's a Katrina evacuee or any person, . . . the feelings get augmented," she said.

About 2,500 Gulf Coast people came to San Diego after the storm destroyed their homes, and about half are believed to be here still. Some have new homes, jobs, church communities and even new babies.

Nonetheless, many struggle against depression each day, said Chiquita Patterson, a Katrina evacuee and mother of three.

"I'm just feeling so, so sad," Patterson said. "I'm not doing good at all."

Patterson, who has her own worries about family, money and isolation, said she cried herself to sleep this week when she heard that another Katrina evacuee, a 20-year-old man who moved to Poway from New Orleans with his family, had killed himself Sunday morning.

"He was a very sweet child," Patterson said of the man. "He was very polite, very respectful. I'm dealing with that, too."

He was part of a group of 82 evacuees airlifted to apparent safety in San Diego by local businessman David Perez on Sept. 5, other evacuees who knew him said.

It was the first local suicide by a Gulf Coast evacuee that county officials are aware of.

"Oh, Lord, oh, Lord," said evacuee Melvin London, upon hearing of the death.

London, who is still unemployed, says each day is hard.

"I want to be able to endure. I got to keep my trust in God. I do feel all of these depressed thoughts, but I have to keep trying or I'm going to wind up killing me," he said.

The young man in Poway died of a self-induced stab wound to the chest, according to the County Medical Examiner's Office.

"It's just tragic," said Phil Harris, who runs Friends and Family Community Connection, a Rancho Bernardo nonprofit that is helping the man's family.

The family had moved into a Poway neighborhood and recently been "adopted" by a church.

Harris said the young man had "seemed to be handling things in stride," but family members have since recalled signs he was struggling.

The upheaval Katrina evacuees experienced during and after the storm coupled with the approaching holidays can increase hopelessness and isolation, Ayers said.

Ayers said displaced families should watch for signs of withdrawal.

The goal is to keep people talking about how they feel, Ayers said, an act that may be difficult as other family members struggle with their own problems adjusting to all they have experienced.

"It's like clinging to a boat," Ayers said. "You're all clinging for life and don't notice someone's grip is slipping."

Katrina evacuees in San Diego are encouraged to call the county's crisis line, (800) 479-3339, when they need help.

"Depression is a very personal experience," Ayers said, "whether loved ones are around or no one is around."

Elena Gaona: (760) 737-7575; elena.gaona@uniontrib.com

 

LOAD-DATE: December 19, 2005


 



18.   FDCH Political Transcripts, “U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BOB NEY (R-OH) HOLDS HEARING ON HOUSING NEEDS AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA,” December 14, 2005

 

562 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

Copyright 2005 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

FDCH Political Transcripts

 

December 14, 2005 Wednesday

 

TYPE: COMMITTEE HEARING

 

LENGTH: 16668 words

 

COMMITTEE: HOUSING AND COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITY SUBCOMMITTEE

 

SUBCOMMITTEE: HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE

 

HEADLINE: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BOB NEY (R-OH) HOLDS HEARING ON HOUSING NEEDS AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA

 

SPEAKER:

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BOB NEY (R-OH), CHAIRMAN

 

LOCATION: WASHINGTON, D.C.

 

WITNESSES:

 

BRIAN MONTGOMERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HOUSING AND, FEDERAL HOUSING COMMISSIONER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

ORLANDO CABRERA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC AND INDIAN HOUSING, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

 

BODY:

 

 

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES: SUBCOMMITTEE ON

HOUSING AND COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITY HOLDS A HEARING ON

HOUSING OPTIONS AFTER THE HURRICANES

 

DECEMBER 14, 2005

 

SPEAKERS:

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT W. NEY (R-OH)

CHAIRMAN

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GARY G. MILLER (R-CA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD H. BAKER (R-LA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PETER T. KING (R-NY)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE WALTER B. JONES JR (R-NC)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PATRICK J. TIBERI (R-OH)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R-FL)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE KATHERINE HARRIS (R-FL)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICK RENZI (R-AZ)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE STEVE PEARCE (R-NM)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R-TX)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL G. FITZPATRICK (R-PA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GEOFF DAVIS (R-KY)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL OXLEY (R-OH)

EX OFFICIO

 

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS (D-CA)

RANKING MEMBER

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE NYDIA M. VELAZQUEZ (D-NY)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JULIA CARSON (D-IN)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BARBARA LEE (D-CA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL E. CAPUANO (D-MA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE STEPHEN F. LYNCH (D-MA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BRAD MILLER (D-NC)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SCOTT (D-GA)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ARTUR DAVIS (D-AL)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE AL GREEN (D-TX)

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BARNEY FRANK (D-MA)

EX OFFICIO

 

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BERNARD SANDERS (I-VT)

 

*

NEY: The Housing Subcommittee will meet this afternoon to continue its discussion of the federal government's response to the emergency housing needs of residents affected by the hurricanes, by Katrina and Rita.

Last week, this subcommittee heard from FEMA regarding its efforts to provide housing assistance to the hurricane evacuees. Today we are pleased to have two witnesses from HUD that are testifying: FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery and Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Orlando J. Cabrera.

Along the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast, of course, there is a Herculean task of coordination and relocation of thousands of individuals and in order to save time, I'm going to just stop with that.

I'll entertain, of course, opening statements, but a lot of the statements that I would be making today, statements about Katrina that we made last week, and I am curiously to hear from the witnesses.

With that, I'm going to yield to our ranking member.

WATERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  I appreciate your taking the time to come back this week to hold this hearing.

And the reason that we're doing it is because HUD did not have a representative at the meeting that was called, where we thought we would be talking with FEMA and HUD at the same time.  So I am delighted that you're here today, and I'm hopeful that you can help us to shed some light on a few things.  You're probably as much in the dark as we are about some of the activities that FEMA is responsible for.

As you know, this is the Subcommittee on Housing of the Financial Services Committee, and we're concerned about a lot of things, but we're concerned about housing.  I'm particularly concerned that we sat in this committee, we sat in roundtable discussions that were organized by the chairman, we sat on several occasions talking about shelters and temporary housing.

We talked about trailers early on and manufactured housing.  We talked about the need that we were going to have to house the victims of Katrina and Rita, and we never thought that we would be at this point and have FEMA announcing that the support for the victims and their rental assistance would be running out, as they first announced in December, and now it has been extended by the courts until February 7.

But February 7 is right around the corner, and we have thousands of victims who are going to be without housing unless we can make sense out of all of this.

I don't know why we don't have the temporary housing.  I don't know why we don't have the temporary housing that we thought we would have.  It's very disturbing, and it's very disturbing to watch on television the description of this lack of housing and people saying that they have offered space to FEMA to put the temporary housing, the homes, that the mayors are saying they have cooperated in every way that they can do, and while you don't have a responsibility for this -- or maybe you do have some responsibility somewhere -- if you do, I'd like you to tell us what it is.

If you don't, I'd like you to tell us that and I'd like for you to tell us whether or not you have any ideas about how we can move this along, whether you know something about whether or not the manufacturing can be speeded up, whether or not there is some problems with locating the space, whether or not there are some problems with cooperation from local elected officials -- if you have any insight into this, we'd like you to share that with us.

And beyond that, if we can get people in temporary housing and out of these shelters and out of the hotels, they're going to have to have permanent homes.  Now, that's where HUD can play a role.  How and what is HUD going to do to help build low- and moderate-income housing for the many victims of Katrina and Rita?

So that's where we are today.  We're trying to find out what role can HUD play.  And I'd also like to know whether or not HUD had offered to the administration to play a role that could have been helpful that maybe was not agreed upon.  It seems to me that you're kind of bystanders, watching what is going on, when maybe there is something else that you could be doing to help us get these people into temporary housing.

With that, I will yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman, and thank you.

NEY: Thank you, gentlelady.

The gentleman from Massachusetts, the ranking member of the committee?

FRANK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to you for your efforts to make sure that we have this hearing.

I don't want to get involved in recrimination.  I will say I think it would have been better if we had had FEMA and HUD together, because they have been working together.  I've got to say, given the need for them to work together in this, the notion that they couldn't sit next to each other and testify is somewhat troubling.  I would think sitting next to each other and testifying would be easier to coordinate than dealing with actually housing people.

But at least you're here, and let's focus on that.  And I want to say here, I do believe -- I have only one major concern with regard to the short-term situation, because this has obviously been FEMA's responsibility primarily, and I do appreciate -- I have a copy of a letter from Assistant Secretary Nate Smith (ph), dated November 29. We received it on the 8th.

One of the things that I think has not been cleared up is that in the immediate aftermath, HUD did suggest, with varying degrees of emphasis, to some housing authorities that they take Katrina evacuees and put them ahead of people on the Section 8 waiting list.  Many of us thought that a poor idea because there was money voted for the Katrina evacuees, and we already have the problem of the waiting list.

I appreciate the fact, as I understand now, that that's no longer the policy.  There was, as the letter said -- there had been some suggestions about that on the Web site. They have been removed.  And it is now clear, going forward housing authorities are under no pressure from the federal government or HUD to put evacuees ahead of people on the waiting list.  This doesn't mean evacuees don't get help.  It means they get it out of that other pot.

But we did have some situations where HUD-funded Section 8 vouchers were made available by some housing authorities, in part because they thought HUD wanted them to do that.  And what I had asked was that they be reimbursed for this.  We already have a tight Section 8 situation, and I would just quote Mr. Lee (p) in his letter.  He said, "Your suggestion that the department ask FEMA to reimburse PHAs for the cost of providing housing choice vouchers to families that were not HUD assisted will be taken under consideration."

In other words, where the families were previously HUD assisted, I know they were taken care of by the program, the (inaudible) program.  But there were some people who were not, and I appreciate that that's being taken under consideration.

It really does seem to me that you ought to be asking FEMA for that reimbursement.  There was a large pot of money there, and I don't think anybody wants to pit evacuees against worthy people in various cities.  So I think that's a very high priority.

The second issue I want to raise, and I hope we can address it in the questions, and I know your written testimony, understandably, Mr. Secretary Montgomery, does deal with the emergency, but while FEMA had the primary role in the emergency, it is up to HUD to help make sure that New Orleans can be repopulated with some of the people who used to live there.

We need to be very clear.  Lower-income people in New Orleans, many of whom whatever they had was somewhat wiped out, they won't be able to come back to New Orleans unless the federal government steps up and provides significant funding through programs.  And that's really, I think, what we need to start focusing on now.

We need to focus on the need to make sure that the result of this hurricane is not, frankly, a richer, whiter New Orleans.  That is not what we ought to tolerate morally as a country.  And I know there has been debate about, well, what was the situation, was it racial or not.

Let's set up this one standard: If, as a consequence of this and a failure of public policy we wind up with a richer, whiter New Orleans, it will be because lower-income people, not all of whom but many of whom will be African-American, were financially unable to move back.  And if that's the case, shame on us as a nation.  And it's going to be HUD that has the burden of working on that with us.

So we are available to you to deal with that and we have already begun, and on this side, frankly, we have expressed some agreement with the governor of Mississippi, Governor Barbour, in terms of the funding he wants.

We will be having a markup tomorrow, I'm pleased to say, on the bill that the gentleman from Louisiana on this committee, Mr. Baker, has put in and he's worked and we've worked.  The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt, is head of the Congressional Black Caucus.  We've had the negotiations.  We will be producing a bill that I think begins the process -- because we can only authorize, we can't appropriate -- of providing the basis for the poorest and hardest hit victims of Katrina to at least be able to move back home.  And I hope you will begin to address that, and you will certainly have our cooperation if you do.  And a big fight if you don't.

And, Mr. Chairman, again, thank you for making sure we were able to have this hearing under these circumstances.

NEY: The gentlelady from New York, Ms. Velazquez?

VELAZQUEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you, Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Cabrera, for attending today's hearing.  We hope that today you will be able to provide some clarity and explain how HUD has responded to the devastated hurricanes.

As I stated last week, the hurricanes were an unprecedented disaster, and for that reason they deserve an unprecedented response. However, thus far we haven't seen much more than ineffective and inefficient solutions.  Red tape and misinformation face victims at every turn and despite the tried and true options available in the form of apartment rentals and Section 8 vouchers, the administration moved forward with expensive and problem-ridden cruise ships, trailers and a soon-to-expire hotel program.

Three months later, announcements continue to be revised, extended and cancelled.  Displaced families read one thing in the papers, hear another from FEMA advisors and yet another from HUD counselors. The right hand is not talking to the left and something must change.

I also am interested in the steps HUD will be taking to alleviate the horrendous health hazards that exist in the hurricane region, especially since it appears that each agency is passing the responsibility for providing mold remediation assistance.  Mold has infested many homes, and removing it is neither an easy nor inexpensive task, and for voucher holders, we must insure that their homes are clean and healthy when they return.

Mr. Chairman, displaced families are tired.  They are tired of waiting for trailers, they are tired of receiving contradictory information or no information at all, and they are tired of hearing that the check is in the mail.  These families need more from our government and they deserve more from our government.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses as to how HUD will be providing this assistance.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

NEY: Thank you.

The gentlelady from California, Ms. Lee?

LEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I do want to thank you and Ranking Member Waters for convening this hearing and welcome both of our witnesses.

And let me say a couple of things with regard to just, first, the coordination between FEMA and HUD.  I think after the hearing last week I became quite concerned, given the way FEMA passed the buck to HUD, just really what type of communication and coordination is there. If in fact it was that loose here and that confusing, I can't imagine what people who are needing your assistance are going through, and so this kind of coordination, I think is very important, and I would like to hear a little bit about that.

Secondly, I would like to know exactly, and I asked the FEMA representatives this also, with regard to the homeless, because, you know, I understand the regulations and laws that govern programs for the homeless, but I need a clear understanding about what happened to those people and what will happen to those people who were homeless in the gulf region and still remain homeless, and what you're doing to help make sure they are provided with decent housing now and not -- because from FEMA's -- from what I remember of FEMA's response, it was, well, they were homeless then, you know, there is probably not much of anything we can do.  And I just think that is downright shameful.  So I would like to know what is going on on your front with regard to the homeless.

Also, it's been reported that Katrina and Rita evacuees have faced considerable discrimination in their efforts to find rental housing and flexible leasing. And, of course, the Congressional Black Caucus has a, I think, the best Katrina response legislation, and in that bill we put in some requirements for enforcement of housing discrimination and I wanted to see what kind of -- what are you doing right now, and what actions are being undertaken to make sure that these individuals are not discriminated against nor gouged, really, as a result of landlords seeing an opportunity now.

Finally, let me just say I think long-term, I think in terms of how HUD perceives temporary housing, yes, immediately, but also long- term, the equitable distribution of housing resources and housing counseling, to prevent future pockets of poverty, and just how you're going to address the long-term economic and community development needs to help use HUD resources now to begin to alleviate the critical numbers, in terms of poverty rates that we have in the gulf region.

And with that I will yield the balance of my time and just thank you again for being here.

NEY: Thank you.

Mr. Davis from Alabama?

A. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to be brief so that we can quickly get to questions.

But I want to make two observations.  The first one, I remember in the early days after Katrina, when we first came back here after the August recess, there was a lot of hope on this committee that HUD would take very seriously the problem of people defaulting on their mortgages, not being able to pay their mortgages, and I don't want us to believe this hearing without the record being clear that two members of this committee were stalwarts on this issues, Mr. White, from North Carolina, and Ms. Waters, from California.

And, frankly, their efforts were seen as quixotic by some.  There was a mindset that, well, that's just not something that we're going to get out of this administration, or something we're going to get out of this committee, and I will give your HUD department some credit; while it's certainly not taken on the comprehensive problem of mortgage defaults, you've at least addressed it in the context of the FHA.  But I want to make sure that the record is very clear that the two people who were most aggressive in raising this issue were the gentleman from North Carolina and the gentlelady from California.

And the final point that I want to make, I almost hate to raise this point, but this is the fourth hearing in a row that we have had on Katrina-related issues where there has been a very conspicuous tilt when you look at who attends these hearings, and frankly I wish I could just say it was Democrats and not Republicans, but if you look around the dais, it's actually even starker than that.

I don't know how clearly I can make this point.  Katrina is not a black folks' issue.  It is not an issue that somehow the black members of this committee have a special interest in and no one else cares about.  I haven't seen a racial breakdown of how many evacuees are African-American, how many are Latino, how many are Caucasian, and I could care less.  I don't think anybody who is here on this committee could care.

And I just wish that we understood as we talk about these issues, this is not a special interest case or a special pleading case, and, frankly, I wish more of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle would take the time to attend these hearings.

NEY: Mr. Scott, from Georgia.

SCOTT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for coming. It's good to see representatives from HUD here finally at last.  It's still unfortunate that your leader, Mr. Alphonso Jackson, is not here.  That to me typifies the level of concern that this administration has for this issue.  It shows blatantly in that.  For this kind of catastrophe, where the number one issue for these evacuees is trying to get a roof over their heads, housing, and you don't even have the secretary of HUD coming to this committee for the second time.  I hope somebody somewhere remembers that and marks that.

This is the hill that this committee has to climb.  Not only that, but as my colleague Mr. Davis so eloquently spoke, that it's left to a few.  But just as the disciples said and the Lord said, where there are few gathered, the Lord is there with us.  And I'm convinced that the Lord is with us here as we go forward.

But it's very, very interesting that in last week's Congressional Quarterly, and I don't know if you all saw this or not, but when FEMA was here and we were running around trying to figure out why HUD wasn't here, there was an interesting quote in the Congressional Quarterly that I hope you will go back and see, because it says a HUD spokesman said that they, HUD, did not want to be seen sitting side by side with FEMA.

That's astounding given the magnitude -- just for any reason -- but given the magnitude of the hurt and the pain that this nation is going through right now, the two primary agencies that should be seen working together is FEMA and HUD.  I am particularly vexed about this because my state of Georgia is the third state in terms of the number of evacuees that we're housing from Mississippi and from Alabama.  And I am consistently perplexed by this.

But there are a number of issues and there are a number of questions that the people in Georgia want to hear answered today.  One of the major concerns is that's not enough, and there is no long-term plan at all.  The amount of money that is being given to the evacuees is not enough to...

NEY: Time is expired.

SCOTT: ... to cover even their short-term needs.

NEY: Time is expired.

SCOTT: So I yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman, and I'll reserve the balance of my time to ask questions.

NEY: And we'll continue to go but I want to caution everybody that around 2:45, 2:50, probably, there is going to be a vote.

Mr. Cleaver?

CLEAVER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I'll reserve my questions that I would like an answer to for later.

But this is a rhetorical question.  Is the failure to show up a request to give up?

NEY: Thank you.  Thank the gentleman.

Mr. Watt?

WATT: Mr. Chairman, I pass.  I just came because I was interested in hearing the witnesses' testimony.

NEY: Thank you.

And without objection, I have a statement...

FRANK: Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry.  Is it permissible for a member to come to a hearing because he wants to hear testimony? I've never -- that's unusual?

NEY: And with that, no objection to a statement from the National Housing Coalition and also we will note Mr. Watt, who has great interest in the hearings, is also here.

And we'll go ahead and start with Brian Montgomery and Orlando Cabrera.  Mr. Montgomery?

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Waters, Ranking Member Frank, distinguished members of the committee.  I'm Brian Montgomery, HUD's assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner.

I do want to also offer that we regret any miscommunication last week, speaking for my colleague to my left and I.  It was our understanding that we were going to appear this week.  And, again, if there was any miscommunication on that part we regret that that happened.  The important thing, sir, is that we are here today.

I also would request that our written statement, Mr. Chairman, be entered into the record.

NEY: Without objection.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, sir.

Today we will discuss what HUD, at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has done in the effort to help people recover and rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.  And what we are doing to provide housing for so many people with unprecedented challenges before them.

As it became apparent the first of these major storms was going to make landfall, Secretary Jackson directed the establishment of a HUD working group to coordinate all agency resources that might be utilized.  Known as the Hurricane Response and Recovery Center, or HRRC for short, this emergency center served as a command post for HUD-related efforts and was staffed with housing professionals from every program office at HUD.

I would also like to add, Mr. Chairman, that while many other Cabinet agencies have 24-hour command posts, this was certainly new territory for HUD, and I certainly want to commend my HUD colleagues for their efforts, because many of them worked 40, 50, 60 days straight manning that Response and Recovery Center.

Well, a couple of months later, as we move forward in the recovery and rebuilding stage, the secretary and deputy secretary established HUD's Assistance and Recovery Team, known as HART.  This team is now coordinating all HUD deployment with FEMA, ensuring that program offices are fulfilling their mission as well as coordinating policy decisions. HUD has been working closely with FEMA to get housing assistance to those who have been displaced and those who have been uprooted by these hurricanes.

This partnership with FEMA, and I might add along with our colleagues at Agriculture, VA, HHS and others, demonstrates a dedication to providing housing assistance.  I think some of the best examples of these partnerships are the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program that my colleague will discuss later.  Also, programs that provide multiple types of temporary federal housing.

Another example is the Joint Housing Solution Center that was stood up within days of the hurricane in Baton Rouge, which HUD played a role in that.  As well as the numerous times that we've joined with other departments' staff to brief staff and members of Congress, including members of this committee, as well as Senate staff as well.

The program offices at HUD have aided in the recovery process as well and have played a large part in that, and, Mr. Chairman, I would like to summarize those quickly.

HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development, for example, has issued waivers of more than 40 requirements for the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, in an effort to increase the flexibility of our existing grant programs, to be used within their current resources for disaster relief.

For example, CPD issues a series of waivers in the home program that included self-certification of income, elimination of the match requirement, and greater flexibility in the use of HOME and American Dream down payment initiative funds to help low-income families receive tenant-based rental assistance and to rehabilitate and to buy homes.

Beyond these efforts with the home program, we have issued a series of waivers for the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Emergency Shelter Grants Program and the HOPWA Program as well. The Office of Housing took the lead in providing the first 90-day foreclosure relief for presidentially declared major disaster areas impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and finally Wilma.

On November 22, Secretary Jackson and I extended the foreclosure moratorium in those counties declared eligible for individual assistance.  That additional 90 days will go to February 28, 2006. The extended foreclosure relief with provide mortgagees additional time in which to confirm the mortgagors intention and ability to repair their homes or their ability to resume regular mortgage payments, all in an effort to help retain home ownership.

To that end, earlier this month the department announced an additional Home Ownership Retention Initiative to help home owners with FHA insured mortgages that live or work in the presidentially- declared counties. Under this initiative, known as the Mortgage Assistance Initiative, FHA will advance mortgage payments for up to 12 months for eligible borrowers who are committed to continued occupancy of their homes as their principal residence and are expected to have the financial capacity to repair storm damage and resume making full mortgage payments at some point within a 12-month period.

This unprecedented -- and I want to stress unprecedented -- mortgage relief program is expected to help up to 20,000 families and perhaps more that were seriously impacted by the hurricanes.  We are doing this in an effort to help retain home ownership so these families can also concentrate on repairing their homes or on finding jobs.

And I want to stress, Mr. Chairman, that was very important to us, to not have families have to worry about those bills, and I'm, again, very proud of the effort of our staff at HUD for putting forward this unprecedented initiative.

In addition, Secretary Jackson and I have personally encouraged lenders to undertake actions such as mortgage modification, refinancing and waiver of late charges for those in the hurricane disaster areas, and to also refrain from reporting derogatory credit information to credit bureaus.

The Office of Public and Indian Housing has issued guidance for the nation's more than 3,000 public housing authorities on how to assist displaced public housing resident.  For example, HUD's guidance in "Q&As for PHAs and Public Housing Residents" are located on HUD's Web site. This document, titled "Guidance For Public Housing Agencies in Assisting Families Displaced by Hurricane Katrina" has also been distributed to all PHAs, to all HUD field office directors and to HUD's field policy and management staff.

The KDHAP initiative that I referenced earlier is providing housing vouchers for evacuee households that were previously receiving public housing assistance and to evacuees who were homeless prior to the hurricane.  The details of that program include: individuals and households must register with FEMA and be determined ineligible for FEMA assistance; FEMA will transfer appropriate registrant qualification data and authorize Stafford Act funds to HUD for this program.

Second, displaced families, including former HUD assisted evacuees, who do not qualify for other assistance, such as FEMA IHP grants or home owners insurance, can qualify for HUD's KDHAP program.

Third, housing assistance will be administered through the established network of local PHAs located across the country.

Four, eligible individuals in households may contact local housing authorities nationwide to participate in this program. Participants will receive housing vouchers that can be redeemed for both public and private housing units in any community at the discretion of the participant.  Vouchers will be calculated at 100 percent of the fair market rent in any community that an evacuee selects.

And, sixth (sic), eligible evacuees may receive rental assistance payments for up to 18 months.  And, finally, the effective date for this program was September 26 of this year.

Lastly but equally important, HUD's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has been an active participant with the rest of the department in responding to the hurricane.  The center participated in the department's post-Katrina hurricane meetings and continues its contribution as a member of the HART team.  The center has also contacted thousands of faith-based and community organizations to recruit their engagement in the department's KDHAP enrollment efforts.

Mr. Chairman, ranking members, we thank for you the opportunity to appear today to present HUD's testimony.  My fellow HUD colleagues and I will respond to any questions you may have.  Thank you.

NEY: Thank you.

And as I understand it, Mr. Cabrera doesn't have a prepared statement, but is here to answer questions.

Well, I want to thank you for your time.

On page two of the testimony, you indicate that HUD identified 20,000 units of multifamily housing that remained available to displaced families through FEMA starting September 2005.  Can you just elaborate a little bit on what types of housing you identified in terms of public housing units, projects, Section 8 based or...

CABRERA: I think HUD's efforts with respect to locating units was very broad, so finding what the inventory was among the public housing stock was an issue of simply communicating with public housing authorities, but it didn't stop there.  It was a broad, industry-wide effort to find units for folks to move into, and that included the stakeholder, the private sector element, which meant, you know, apartments and companies that own multifamily assets.

But on top of that, housing finance agencies were contacted, and, frankly, the full gamut of anybody having an available unit, I would say that even including in many cases people who own single family homes that happened to be vacant, who happened to call and volunteer. I know of at least a couple of incidents of that.

NEY: Of the 20 -- just to follow up for a second and then I'll -- of the 20,000 that were open, whether it was a unit or multifamily or whatever it was, how many of the FEMA evacuees went into there? 20,000-some people or do you know?

MONTGOMERY: Mr. Chairman, we can give you an exact number, but I dare say probably the vast majority of those were occupied by evacuees.

NEY: And you were going to say something, Mr. Montgomery?

MONTGOMERY: I was just going to also add, sir, that, again, HUD worked diligently, working with our career staff and others, to identify these units.

We knew early on this was an unprecedented disaster, and we also worked with the Department of Treasury to get the income waiver guidelines for tax credit properties.  We knew that the market for the affordable housing in parts of the south was very soft and there were thousands of vacant units, so it was critical that we helped in working with Treasury to get that waived early on, as well as making sure that the vouchers for victims who were displaced, that those could be ported to other locals.

NEY: Do you know of -- now, some of the people who previously had HUD Section 8, but there is also a whole new group of people that are brand new now into the system, that lost what they owned, and so they're new.  I imagine that emergency vouchers probably apply to them, correct, to the new people?

CABRERA: Currently, the partnership we have with FEMA under their duties pursuant to the Stafford Act, are to deal mostly with those folks who are in that universe of tenants that were receiving federal subsidy under public housing or Section 8.  But that does not include those who were not.

NEY: So what happens with individuals who were on the waiting list down there, let's say, for a voucher, waiting list.  I mean, you have to take care of people that have the vouchers, some people have been displaced to other areas of the country.  So did the voucher follow?

And then the other question I would have is, then who will pay for this as new people come onto Section 8?  Who pays for that?  Does that come out of HUD?  Has that been talked about yet?  Or does it come out of FEMA or...

CABRERA: Well, currently no one new is coming onto Section 8 vouchers.  But coming back, Mr. Chairman, to the first question you asked, which was the issue of the waiting list, it's been a long- standing policy in many PHAs -- PHAs have this within their own policy -- that preference be given to people who are victims of disasters. That is nothing new and that's something that PHAs can opt to do or not.

NEY: Well, that's what I'm wondering.  And my time is running out and I want to get on to the other members.  But in the remainder of my time -- and I'm going to come back to this if we all get through questions -- who pays for the -- at the end of the day if someone needs help and they come up to Ohio and then they get the voucher and then somebody up there is on a waiting list.  Are you going to account at the end of the day how much money we need to take care of the people who were already on the waiting list, and obviously take care of the evacuees too.

CABRERA: Well, only momentarily taking off my HUD hat, and not speaking for FEMA and putting on my prior hat, my experience is that FEMA is currently paying for that.  That is the housing piece of FEMA assistance, and those folks are still covered under the housing allocation that FEMA is providing.

NEY: The gentleman from Massachusetts?

FRANK: Thank you.

Let me go back to the issue I mentioned, where we had a period where HUD had encouraged people, and it was on the Web site, housing authorities, to give priority to evacuees.  The letter I got dated November 29 said you were thinking about asking FEMA to reimburse.

FEMA's got large amounts of unpaid money.  What is the current status of your thinking of asking FEMA for a reimbursement to those housing authorities?  Because we have a tightness in Section 8.  Is there any further thinking on that?

CABRERA: On the first issue, as I recall, the only thing we were trying to clarify is that those who did not have a stated policy already on dealing with the waiting list issue, that they had the flexibility now to deal with it, the way that other PHAs already had. So they could make that decision.  We were providing them autonomy to make that decision.

FRANK: Well, I will tell you that some housing authorities felt some pressure to do that.

CABRERA: OK.

FRANK: And I would think that whether they did it autonomously or not, we have a shortage of Section 8 in some cities, where there are waiting lists.  We have at this point some extra FEMA money.  I would think HUD would be interested in facilitating that transfer to help it out.  Is there any reason in public policy not to?

CABRERA: Not to do what, Congressman? Forgive me, I missed it.

FRANK: To reimburse those housing authorities that used scarce Section 8, where they had waiting lists, for evacuees.

CABRERA: Congressman, that's a conversation I have not yet had, but I'm happy to inquire.

FRANK: I would hope you would do that.

Let me move on from there to the -- well, one other question. And one of the things, again, this is a FEMA decision, but I would hope you would have some input here.  Several cities have been willing, I think quite admirably, to be intermediaries.  We're talking about people who were displaced, people who didn't have a lot of experience with travel, don't have a lot of resources, you know, they're being told to go out and find a three-month rental.

I know the city of Houston was pretty active, the city of Atlanta, and at some point FEMA told the cities that it would no longer allow them to be the intermediaries, that they could not sign the leases and be reimbursed by FEMA, that the individuals had to sign the leases directly.  That just seems to me to be a very bad idea and I wondered, you know, we're talking about some people who are literally bereft.

Would it not be a good idea, if the cities were willing to undertake that, to encourage them to continue to do it?

CABRERA: Congressman, truthfully, I can't speak to that issue. It sounds like -- I'm not trying to punt, but...

FRANK: It is a FEMA issue, but do you want me to give you FEMA's phone number?  I mean, I've got it.

CABRERA: I have it too.

FRANK: All right.  You're the housing authority.  You're the housing department.  You have housing expertise.  We have counseling (inaudible) about this.  How about being a little bit energetic and proactive and maybe picking up the phone and saying -- I'm asking you, in the advice -- you guys are used to dealing with housing, more so than FEMA.

We're not talking now about providing a physical short-term emergency but getting people long-term housing.  Wouldn't it be a good idea for the cities to be involved? And couldn't you help FEMA understand that?

CABRERA: I think that the cities that you mentioned, mostly Houston and Dallas, have both noted that they had their own challenges in trying to accommodate a whole lot of folks.  And I think what FEMA was trying to make sure of is that if people wound up with living arrangements that somehow they could finalize in the form of a lease, that they could do that as swiftly and as easily as possible on their own with these leases.  But I don't believe that either Houston or Dallas were acting as housing locater services.

FRANK: Mr. Assistant Secretary, I try to be calm, but this -- why are you trying to put a gloss on this?  You're putting words in people's mouths that they don't put in themselves.

The mayor of Houston has complained about this.  Houston and -- they were willing.  In fact, they signed the leases, because you have people who have no resources, they have nothing. They were told, well, we'll give a three-month deal.  The cities were willing to put themselves out, and they've been told they can't do that.

It's not at all what you have described.  I'm really disappointed that you would start creating some rationale for a bad policy rather than trying to be helpful.  I'm serious.  I'm disappointed.  That's not what the cities themselves tell us. They are willing to be the intermediaries.  Why, if the cities are willing to be intermediaries and get the reimbursement, is that not a better idea than leaving all these people to fend for themselves?

CABRERA: Congressman, far be it from me to disappoint you. That's not what I'm trying to do.  What I'm trying to do is explain to you the logistical reason...

FRANK: I asked you a question.  Why is it not a good idea to have the cities, if they are willing to do this, be intermediaries for these people?

CABRERA: Congressman, that is not an issue that we are handling here.  That's what I tried to explain earlier.

FRANK: Right.  I'm sorry we don't have a bowl for you to wash your hands in, Mr. Assistant Secretary.  And I am very disappointed. I didn't -- I know you weren't there.  I said it was FEMA.  I was asking why you wouldn't use your expertise in the housing area to suggest to them that maybe this is something they ought to do.

Let me ask you, Mr. Montgomery, where are we on planning for affordable housing on a permanent basis?  What is the status of that?

MONTGOMERY: Congressman, are you referring to the long-term redevelopment?

FRANK: I'm returning to the possibility of poor people who were driven out and lost their homes being able to return to live in the city.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much, sir, for that question.

One of the key things that we, speaking for FHA, sir, determined early on, referenced by my previous point, was we could -- we saw, we heard the concerns from many families who through no fault of their own had been uprooted and moved...

NEY: I wanted to warn you, time is expired.  You can go ahead and summarize.  And if we get questions done, we can come back for a second round.

FRANK: No.  My patience is expired along with the time.

NEY: OK.  Mr. Davis?

A. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Montgomery, let me ask you again a little bit about the home ownership or the home default initiative that's been launched related to FHA payments.  What percentage of the national mortgage market is FHA-backed?

MONTGOMERY: Currently, Congressman, our current market share is about 4 percent...

A. DAVIS: OK.

MONTGOMERY: ... of all loans out there.

A. DAVIS: Now, with respect to Louisiana and Mississippi, is there any reason to think that the number is substantially greater than that 4 percent?

MONTGOMERY: Congressman, I can't give you an exact figure, but yes, it would be.

A. DAVIS: Well, what is your basis for thinking that it's significantly greater in Louisiana and Mississippi than it would be in the rest of the country?  And how much greater do you think it is?

MONTGOMERY: Primarily due to the housing prices, sir.  Because of the loan limits, it's difficult for FHA to compete, if you will, in markets such as up here in Washington, D.C. or on the West Coast. Where housing prices are much more affordable, sir, then we, FHA, has been a very good product for many low-income homes.

A. DAVIS: Is it as high as 15 percent in Louisiana and Mississippi, the FHA's share of the market?

MONTGOMERY: Again, Congressman, if I can get you an exact figure, I will do so.

A. DAVIS: OK.  The reason for my asking that is, despite what I think is a good program, there clearly are a lot of mortgagees who are facing defaults who are not affected by HUD's efforts, and I wanted to ask, is there any particularly good public policy reason for not launching some kind of initiative to reach the large number of families who don't have FHA-backed mortgages?

MONTGOMERY: And, Congressman, we've asked ourselves that same question many times within HUD.

I, as the FHA commissioner, can only speak for FHA.  As much as I would like to, given the parameters of what FHA can and can't do, I just don't see right now how without and legislative authority we could reach the conventional market, if you will.

A. DAVIS: Would HUD look favorably on Congress providing legislative authority to reach beyond the FHA market?  Either one of you?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, yes, Congressman.

A. DAVIS: And I assume, Mr. Cabrera, you would share that?

CABRERA: I would, but it's his world.

A. DAVIS: Well, it's all of our worlds.  We all live in it together.

CABRERA: In my case, to the extent that it actually affects Indian housing, the answer is yes.

A. DAVIS: OK.

CABRERA: But that's decidedly...

A. DAVIS: Well, I agree with you, and I think a lot of members on the committee would agree with you, that if we're serious about addressing the housing problem, I think you're likely right, that there probably is a greater FHA share of the mortgage in these relatively low-income southern states than in the country, but it is still a very small share of the market, I suspect.

The second thing I want to ask you about is the homesteading initiative, which, again, has positive elements to it, but as I understand the homesteading initiative, it's up to the person who would move into the home to bear the cost of repair.  Am I right about that?  That in effect the person would have an opportunity to come into this abandoned land, but would have to bear the cost of repair. Is that right?

MONTGOMERY: Not necessarily, Congressman.  The key thing to note here is that HUD wants to do what they can to keep communities together, to help stabilize neighborhoods that will certainly need that.

This program, we think, is designed to do that.  Rather than under the current program, where HUD can sell those properties, in this case we would turn them over to local units of government for $1.

A. DAVIS: Yes.

MONTGOMERY: We, of course, will take a substantial financial hit for that, but as part of our effort to make sure those communities are stabilized, we think it's something we should do.

Now, it's up to the local unit of government whether they'll work with a non-profit, such as Enterprise, Habitat for Humanity, just as some examples, as to actually do the sweat equity or the repair to the home.

A. DAVIS: Well, let me again just follow up on that, because I think that you're -- I understand what you're saying, but obviously the local governments may have to bear a lot of responsibility, but I would echo what Mr. Frank said.  This is a place for HUD to be proactive.  It does not make a lot of public policy sense for me to say to these people you have a shot of reclaiming this property and making some use of it if you can afford it, because obviously a lot of them are in destitute conditions.

The final point that I'll make before my time runs out, I think it's enormously important that we move forward with a much more expansive approach on housing, because this is the consequence of the government's inaction the last several months.

A lot of people who used to live in New Orleans feel they have no reason to go back.  And unless we want this disaster to result in the repopulation and realignment of this city, the government needs to do more, frankly.  HUD needs to do more.  Congress needs to do more to make an affirmative statement and to put proposals in place to make this city livable again.  Otherwise we are engaging in what amounts to a resettlement, and there is no place for that, I think, in our conscience when it comes to these evacuees.

I yield back the balance of my time.

NEY: Thank you.

Gentlelady, ranking member from California?

WATERS: Thank you very much.

I may have missed this answer already, but I'm sorry, I'll have to request it again.  HUD took some actions early on to be of assistance, and I know that was discussed, I think in the testimony that you had prepared, where you talked about a number of things.

One of the things you talked about was making some of the HUD properties available to FEMA, over 5,000 properties that you had. Were those accepted and utilized by FEMA?

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Ranking Member Waters.

Early on, FHA identified about 6,000 homes that were currently unoccupied that had been foreclosed.  That was in the 11-state region around -- to include Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, Louisiana as well.  Since those homes have been foreclosed, many of them required extensive repair.  Now, as part of an existing interagency agreement with FEMA that was developed with the hurricanes in Florida last year, we quickly modified that agreement to include these disasters.

But, again, many of these units needed repair.  We quickly identified 1,800, began the repair on them, and made those a part of the agreement with FEMA.  We dispatched HUD staff to the FEMA regional office in Dallas over two months ago to work placing families into these properties, a lot of which were located in Texas.

To date, back to the 1,800 for a minute, about 500 families have moved in.  About any 700 families have been matched to a property but have not quite moved in.  And the balance of that number are still under repair.

Now, getting back to the other 4,000 or so homes, again, many of those need to be repaired.  As families move out of hotels, we will certainly make those properties available to them.  We are also researching the possibility of maybe offering some of those homes on a very discounted sale to some other families.  But, again, we're still working through those issues.

WATERS: Let me ask you, out of -- well, 6,000 properties?  How many altogether?

MONTGOMERY: A little less than 6,000 at that point.

WATERS: Something less than 6,000.  Why is it only 1,800 are repaired?

MONTGOMERY: I would say that it required time.  Unfortunately, whenever a home is foreclosed, we found that on average they require at least $15,000 worth of repair. Building materials are in short supply.  It's hard to get, in some cases, the labor to repair these homes.

The last thing we want is to put a family in a home that doesn't have appliances or the roof...

WATERS: Do you have the money for the labor?

MONTGOMERY: Well, as part of the interagency agreement, FEMA will reimburse us up to $10,000 per home.  The rest of that, HUD will have to incur.

WATERS: So the money is there for the labor?

MONTGOMERY: Finding the labor has been the biggest difficulty, given the shortage of labor in that part of the country.

WATERS: Well, you know, I'm not sympathetic to that argument, because we have victims of Katrina and Rita coming from the area, looking for jobs.  You have contractors down there -- you don't, but FEMA -- where they're getting people from Guatemala.  We have people who want to work, people who are unemployed.  I don't buy the argument that you can't find the labor.

What I buy is that between, I guess, HUD, FEMA and everybody else, there has been no program put in place by which to identify the unemployed, particularly those who come from the regions affected by the hurricane, and to place them into jobs.

I mean, it is just outrageous that we have all of these unemployed people and then we talk about we don't have enough people to do this kind of work.  And if $15,000 is the average amount of work that is required on a foreclosed home, you could spend $15,000 in 15 minutes on repairs.  I mean, that's not a lot of money.  That's not a lot of repair.  I mean, that's a few drywalls and, you know, some faucets replaced.  I mean, that's no big deal.  We've got people that we're spending millions of dollars on still on ships and in hotels, and we've got to do something to get these people into homes.

How many days has it been since -- 110 days.  And we have about 4,000 properties that could be repaired and used that we just haven't been able to get online yet.  Is that right?

MONTGOMERY: I'm sorry?

WATERS: About 4,000 properties we just haven't been able to get online yet, we haven't been able to get repaired and put into use?

MONTGOMERY: That number is accurate.  But I would add, again, we are also looking at, for the homes that require less repair, to perhaps be able to offer to some families who have expressed interest, who have called our call center, because again these homes have been pulled off the market.  We didn't want to sell them at market rate. We may be in a position to offer these at a discounted sale to some families.

But I do want to add though that we did, we repaired over 1,800 homes less than 10 weeks or so after this agreement was signed.  So...

WATERS: I know.  And I know you probably think you did a good job and you should be complimented.  We're just not in a complimentary mood right now with these television stories every night about these poor people who are dying for some place to live.  We really -- I'm really focused on the trailers, but when I saw your testimony with 6,000 homes, my appetite was immediately whetted, and I thought, oh, here we go.

So, you had 6,000 homes.  About 4,000 of those are left, 1,800 have been repaired.  But only 500 people are housed in that possibility of 6,000.  But the other thing that you did was you gave a lot of waivers, and those waivers could have gotten people into homes, et cetera.  How much have the waivers been able to do to get people into housing?

MONTGOMERY: As I referenced earlier, the last thing we want to do is to waive safety and soundness standards.

WATERS: No, we don't want you to do that.

NEY: Time is expired.

MONTGOMERY: The waivers I referenced earlier had to do with our CPD program.

WATERS: OK.  So how many people got into houses as a result of those waivers?

MONTGOMERY: I'd have to get that number for you.

WATERS: OK.  Well, let me just say that we have got to go and vote, and the chairman is telling me we've got to go.  But I just want you to leave here knowing that we would really appreciate it if for every housing resource you have, you could get somebody in it.  And we're going to have to find a way to track that, because we've just got to do better than we're doing.

Thank you very much.

NEY: Thank you.

We have a vote, but I would note to the members I'm more than willing to come back and have questions.  I would like personally to do a round of questions after you all ask your questions.  I'm more than willing to do that.

Another thing too I wanted to note, I'll talk with the ranking member.  I think it would not have worked that well to have a hearing at the point in time this happened.  Now at a critical juncture maybe we could find, in January, and go down to New Orleans and Gulfport and physically talk to people, have a hearing.  I mean, I know individual members have went down. That may be of help, if we can do that.

SCOTT: Before we vote, Mr. Chairman, could I ask my question.  I have a meeting after.

NEY: Absolutely.  I'm willing to come back, so I'll come back with ya'll.

SCOTT: I maybe can get back, but I do have a pressing question.

I want to get your response, because as I mentioned in my opening statement, we in Georgia rank third in the number of evacuees that we have, so it's a very critical issue.  A major concern, and one of those areas that HUD is involved in is your rental assistance through your KDHAP program, in which you are providing some rental assistance.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a major concern. I'm going to read just a part here of a letter to me from my constituents in Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association.  And they say, "Congressman Scott, the federal government's policy of rental assistance money simply does not align with market reality.

As I'm sure you know, the federal government is offering only -- offering evacuees $786 per month for rent although in the metro area the fair market value of rent is considerably higher, over $1,000. The Department of Housing Urban and Development's fair market rent of approximately $830 for the city of Atlanta is still not sufficient. As of last week, we were told by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency that a housing assessment conducted by the city of Atlanta had only identified only 740 apartments that were available at that rate."

My question simply is that -- given that the average rental payment for a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta, Georgia's market approximates $1,000 a month, not even counting estimated monthly utility costs of another $400 a month, how do you think and how did you arrive at a market value substantially lower than that?  And did you do an analysis of the market value?  And given the fact that this information is coming from Georgia, what can we do to increase that, to get the help down to the local governments, so that this burden isn't totally on them to make up that difference?

CABRERA: Congressman, I'm reasonably certain that the Atlanta MSA has area median rent that are higher than $746.  The KDHAP voucher is not pegged to any one number.  It's pegged to the area's fair market rent.  So I'm not entirely sure where there number was -- did you mention $746?

SCOTT: Right.  $786

CABRERA: $786 -- came from I will be happy to go back.

SCOTT: Which doesn't include the utility costs, and when the average two bedroom cost is over $1,000.

CABRERA: I would be happy to...

NEY: I would want to note, we have about four minutes, but you can come back -- you'll both be available to come back?

CABRERA: Absolutely.

NEY: OK.  And I'll be back, right as soon as we vote.

SCOTT: I think I will come back too.  I do have a number of questions that I think it is important to...

NEY: We'll reconvene in about, you know, eight minutes, when we can get everybody back.

(RECESS)

NEY: We'll go ahead.  I want to thank you for returning.

We'll start with Mr. Scott, who I think was in the middle of a question.

SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me, I think where we -- I'm a little out of breath from running back.  I think we left off with the situation in Georgia that we're faced with and this discrepancy on the amount of money that's allotted to cover rent, rental assistance, which is clearly about $200, maybe $300, $350, less, not including the cost for utilities.

How do we deal with that?  How can we get that discrepancy closed?  We in Congress have allocated the moneys for that.  You all have that authority.  How quickly can we solve that problem?

CABRERA: Mr. Scott, I did get some clarity on the rent issue. As I noted earlier, it is in fact area fair market rent that predominates in any given market where KDHAP is used.

In the case of the Atlanta MSA, that number is $818, which means that a study was done at -- well, I signed those in the last three weeks.  I was sworn in three weeks ago, and so sometime recently there was a rent study done.  The rent study said that the fair market rent for a two bedroom unit in the Atlanta area is $818. That is the applicable rent pursuant to KDHAP.

Now, as part of the KDHAP program, the tenant also gets a utility, not allowance but a utility deposit allowance, and gets a security deposit allowance, but they don't get utilities as far as I know.  Now, I can check with my staff if you give me just a moment, let me find out.

Correct.  There are no utilities in the KDHAP program.

SCOTT: You said there are no?

CABRERA: No.

SCOTT: I mean, you have winter coming.  How are people going to stay warm?  How are they going to eat? How are they going to subsist? There is no utilities?

CABRERA: The KDHAP program is designed to deal with emergency response.  It is allocated to FEMA. We've taken -- KDHAP comes out of a small sub-program within FEMA's program that we are administrating for them.  It's designed to -- it's designed to essentially take care of a victim's rental needs or housing needs.

SCOTT: In your opinion, what is it going to take for us to get some help down to our state and our local communities who are facing this issue?  You say it's $819.  My folks down in Georgia say it's closer to $1,000 a month. There is a problem here.  How do we address that?

CABRERA: There are different elements to housing assistance in emergency response.  Generally, there is an emergency response package that is provided to those folks who are not receiving help from, essentially from HUD, in the form of anything that has to do with Public and Indian Housing.

And those folks are being helped by FEMA.  The folks that -- the folks that Public and Indian Housing are helping are folks that were previously receiving vouchers under Section 8 and those who were residents in public housing.  And I have just been corrected by my staff, and evidently the fair market rent includes utilities.

SCOTT: I understand that -- does that include -- do you mean to tell me that for $200, I think, you have a utility rate of $200?

CABRERA: I don't know what the utility allowance is.  I can check and I'm sure they can tell me.

SCOTT: So that $200 is included in the $816?  That's even further...

CABRERA: That's not how -- I know that that's not how they statistically handle it.  May I have just a moment, please?

SCOTT: Sure, go ahead.

CABRERA: Congressman, I'm going to, again, go back to an old hat I used to wear.  As a matter of practice, what typically happens is that there is fair market rent. And there is a utility portion of rent that HUD publishes.  As a general rule, that utility portion is published from time to time.  The issue that you have just identified is unclear to me.  We're looking it up right now and I'll get back to you -- as to whether the $818 number is a gross number or whether it is a net rent number with a utility on top.  I suspect it's a gross number.

SCOTT: Well, let me just say before I go to my next question -- I know there are other questions -- that obviously this is an issue, it's a very serious one.  I think it's one in which we can do something about in terms of -- and we need your direction to tell us what we need to do in Congress to fix that problem.  It could be additional appropriations.  It needs to be something because it's clear that, you know, you've got average utility down there.

My folks are saying, Georgia Municipal Association, city of Atlanta, Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, all these counties that are holding over 30,000, 40,000 folks, and they are facing this dilemma, and so we need to address that.  That's a really killing issue to us.

And we have $900 or $1,000 rent for a two bedroom apartment, the utilities $400.  That's $1,300, and you've got only assistance of $819 as you say and quite possibly $200 of that is folded in to take care of the utilities.

Let me just ask you one other question, too.  You are for the FHA -- in those FHA-insured homes in the devastated area, have you issued any moratorium on foreclosure?

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Congressman.

Yes, sir, we have.  We issued the first 90 day moratorium shortly after the hurricane.  The first moratorium expired in late November. We extended, sir, an additional 90 days that will currently take us to the end of February of '06.

SCOTT: OK.  Let me ask you, another of the major concerns, long- term planning of this and your ability to work whatever it is -- I don't know what these differences are. Well, before I get into that, what are the differences?  Let's lay the cards on the table.  I just believe that there are some problems -- not only are there problems within FEMA responding to this, problems within HUD responding to this, there appears to be a very serious problem of getting HUD and FEMA together.

What is the status of your relationship with one another?  Be frank and honest with us, because there are clearly some problems here.  We need to address those.  There are people out there who are hurting because there is a failure of these two agencies, one dealing with the temporary that has to hand it off to the semi-permanent to the permanent housing to fix.  If there is no bridge there, there is no glue there, we have a problem.

MONTGOMERY: Congressman, thank you.  I'll address that speaking for FHA and for housing and HUD.

We early on, of course, realized this was an unprecedented disaster, and we, on our own, dispatched dozens of HUD staff to staff disaster recovery centers, knowing that FEMA would need those resources.

We again modified an existing interagency agreement that we had with them so we could quickly put that into place along the Gulf Coast relative to the FHA foreclosed homes that we had in our inventory.  In working with that, we quickly pulled those homes off of the market, knowing that they would be occupied.  What we didn't know early on was the level of repair that they required.  But, again, that was us working together with FEMA.

NEY: Time is expired.

SCOTT: May I ask one final question, Mr. Chairman?  I just got to get to this point and I'll be finished.

And that is this, and I just want to know if this is the root of the problem.  There have been individuals and housing advocates all across the board, and I'm sure you're aware of this, have increasingly been raising the issue of whether some or all of FEMA's housing assistance responsibilities should be transferred to HUD, the federal agency which is primarily, as you are, for housing policy.

And these calls have increased in light of the continuing criticism of FEMA's administration of its emergency housing programs. Where are we on that?  Is there movement here?  Is there any substance to these issues and this effort to transfer all the housing into HUD?

MONTGOMERY: Well, certainly, sir, that's a decision others will have to make.  But speaking for the here and now, I think we have all learned significantly from this.  And to the degree that we could, when we encountered a problem, instead of saying, well, that's a square peg in a round hole, we said let's make that square peg fit in that round hole.

SCOTT: But you are aware that some people are suggesting that?

MONTGOMERY: Sir, I'm aware of those.  Again, those are decisions for others to make.  But I would also say one thing that we learned from...

NEY: I've got to call time on this.  So, sum it up.

SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

NEY: What were you going to say, if you could do that -- we learned from this?

MONTGOMERY: Working with other Cabinet agencies.  As you know, HUD is not the only Cabinet agency that has a housing role.  Certainly USDA does and VA, and we work very closely with our partners in those other Cabinet agencies, including in the disaster recovery centers, bringing all of our efforts, all of our properties, to bear. And particularly USDA, sir, I think should be commended for what they did.

NEY: I could be wrong, but didn't -- before FEMA was created, didn't HUD have a HUD disaster and they handled everything?  And then people got mad and they created FEMA, isn't that...

MONTGOMERY: That is my understanding, Mr. Chairman.  That predates me.

NEY: OK.

Mr. Watt?

WATT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I'm not a member of this subcommittee and I'm an interloper, so I want to try to stay well within the five minutes.

There is plenty of abuse that HUD, FEMA and everybody else is taking, and I want to take the opportunity to praise something that I think may have the capacity to be built on.  The Congressional Black Caucus's Katrina Relief Bill has a provision in it that would provide for payment of mortgage payments by the government for a one-year or two-year period, and I think it's wonderfully significant that HUD has picked up that with reference to the things that are under its jurisdiction.

So a couple of questions, because I think we may have the potential here to build on something that you all have taken the lead on.  Have you, in the aftermath of your decision to do this mortgage assistance program for FHA-insured mortgages, have you found any receptivity in your discussions with private mortgage lenders to do the same, to replicate this program with non-FHA-insured mortgages? That's the first question.

Second, you may not have this information readily available with you today, but I certainly would like for you to give the information to the committee.  What is it going to cost to do this mortgage assistance program?  Obviously, you all have costed it out.  I would assume you have.  You may not have the figures right here.  But it seems to me that the way you have done it, picked up the payments for a period of time and then tacked those payments back on the end of the mortgage, while it costs something in the short-term saves something in the long-term because you do a lot less foreclosures.

And where I'm headed to here is if we can get a number, and this is a manageable number, we might be able to convince our colleagues here that by spending a little bit of money on a program such as this in the short-term it would -- we might even be able to convince lenders that by doing this in the short-term it is a long-term saving to them.

So, is there any receptivity that you have sensed from the private mortgage lenders to follow your lead?  And if they did, and did it basically on the same model, tacking the payments that are deferred onto the end of the mortgage, what would be the financial impact of doing that?

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, sir, for your question, and I'll answer the second one first.

You had asked about the cost of doing it.  Speaking for HUD, we consider the cost of not doing it, that by investing this -- and yes, it is a second mortgage.  It's not payable, however, until the first mortgage is paid off or refinanced.  We will lose less money in the long-term.  It wasn't our principal reason for doing it.  We wanted to give these families some relief.  They've got enough to worry about. We wanted to be able to take this off of their plate.

To the degree that we could, sir, we did that.

WATT: But you're not really saying that the net cost effect as you have costed it out is a positive figure, are you?  I mean, surely it's costing you something.  I understand that it's a good gesture, but I want the record to be clear.  You're not saying FHA and HUD is going to gain money as a result of doing this.

MONTGOMERY: No, sir.  No, sir, we will not.

WATT: So there is a cost associated with it that is aside from the, you know, the cost of not doing it.

MONTGOMERY: That is correct.

WATT: And that's the cost I'm looking for.  And, you know, you may not have it today.  I just think it's important for us to get it in the record.

MONTGOMERY: Yes, sir, we will do that.

WATT: OK.

MONTGOMERY: Relative to your first question...

NEY: You can sum up.  The time has expired, and we'll move on.

MONTGOMERY: Just quickly, sir, it's difficult for us to speak for the conventional market. Speaking for Fannie and Freddie, though, they did put moratoriums on their mortgages fairly early on.  Perhaps the conventional market will look at the fact that we will lose less money by doing this effort and they'll have to make those decisions on their own.

NEY: Ms. Lee from California?

LEE: Thank you very much.

Let me go back to asking my question with regard to the homeless in terms of for those who were homeless prior to Katrina.  What are the details in terms of eligibility and program assistance and funds for evacuees now who were homeless prior to Katrina and who knows where they are now, but what's going on with them and how do they become eligible for housing assistance?

CABRERA: Many of these questions are answered, frankly, by the existing system.  It's a continuum of care.  And those who are homeless and involved in a continuum of care were identified.  And then what we would do is match that with current FEMA intake information and try to locate them.

In those cases where they were located, we would provide -- we do, we are providing housing, including KDHAP vouchers.

LEE: And when they return home, what will they go back to? Where will they be returned to, in terms of housing?

CABRERA: We're implementing a housing solution that would...

LEE: A housing what?

CABRERA: ... solution, that would entail a greater (inaudible) than just the physical locale in which to live with respect to Katrina response.  But returning home is an issue as well.  I mean, New Orleans is probably not going to be an alternative for a homeless person to go back to for a while.  So at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is maintain this program, the KDHAP program, in order to provide for their housing for as long as possible.

LEE: I guess when they return home, when it's safe for them to return home, and when there has been adequate housing built, a person who was homeless prior to Katrina, will they be eligible to return to some rental housing, for example, subsidized by HUD?  Or where will they return to?

CABRERA: They'll be eligible to still receive the subsidy they previously received when they were part of the continuum of care, sure.

LEE: Part of the continuum of care, but if you're homeless you're living in a shelter or you're homeless.

CABRERA: Right.

LEE: So do you return homeless to the block where you were living or do you go to a shelter or do you go to...

CABRERA: No, I'm sorry, Congresswoman.

In the case of the homeless, there are a variety of groups. There are folks who are homeless for one reason or another.  In some cases, those are folks that are going to go to shelters. That is the place where they feel they are best served.  So that largely becomes an issue of how that city deals with the homeless issue in their particular area.

For those who are looking to go beyond that, that's a longer-term issue that I believe, frankly, would be outside the gamut of emergency response.  Most of what we've been dealing with here is emergency response.

LEE: OK.  So for those living in the street who were homeless and had to leave to survive...

CABRERA: Right.

LEE: ... what will they return to?

CABRERA: Well, I think it depends upon -- it's not a question to what they return to.  The question is we have to locate them now.

LEE: Well, once you locate them...

CABRERA: I think what you're asking me, I'm trying to understand the question a bit better.  I think what you're trying to ask me is what happens after the subsidy is up, the KDHAP subsidy is up?

LEE: When people return home, when housing is built...

CABRERA: Right.

LEE: ... when it's safe to return, people who were living in the streets who had to leave...

CABRERA: They were already receiving some subsidy from Public and Indian Housing.

LEE: Some subsidy, yes, but they didn't have any place to live, and what I'm trying to find out is will they have a place to live now when they return to New Orleans?

CABRERA: I think that's part of a more general question, which is what is that -- what is that continuum of care eventually going to do for folks who are homeless.  What is homeless defined as.

LEE: But if you're living on a block, a street corner, and you're homeless, and you get whatever subsidy you get every month to get food stamps or whatever, do you return to that block where you were living?

CABRERA: You were previously in a program where people were familiar with you and people were attending to your needs.  And at that time, the time that the hurricane hit, we were asked to undertake essentially a housing solution for them in that context.

For those folks, that continuum of care will persist.  But I'm not sure those are the only folks you're discussing.

LEE: No.  I'm talking about other folks.  And I know that New Orleans had a large homeless population, like many urban areas.  So what happens to those who were living in the streets who left, who had to.

CABRERA: For folks who were living in the streets who the continuum of care was not aware of, or no one...

LEE: So everyone had shelter?  Everyone was living in a shelter?

CABRERA: I don't believe that anyone has ever maintained that those folks had shelter.  I think the issue is that there is a continuum of care that was trying to deal with them and that is the context that we can best...

LEE: I understand that, but...

CABRERA: For those that were not a part of...

LEE: ... for those who didn't have shelter, will they have shelter when they return?  Yes, he said they've got to locate them first, yes.

CABRERA: Yes, I think the issue is first locating and identifying...

NEY: Time is expired.

LEE: I understand you have to locate them first -- OK.

NEY: Mr. Cleaver?

CLEAVER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Montgomery or Mr. Cabrera, first of all, this is a question that I think all human beings can feel.  What is your assessment of the interest of Congress is trying to solve the issues, the mammoth issues, in the Gulf Coast region based on the four people here from the committee?  Does that say anything to you at all?

MONTGOMERY: I'm sorry, Congressman, I want to make sure I understand the question.  You're asking our assessment of Congress's role and interest?

CLEAVER: No, I know the role of Congress.  I'm asking if you can look here at the four members present and realize there are about 30 others who are not here, maybe more.  Does that make any suggestion to you about the disinterest in Congress, that this issue has already had its moment in the sun and so there is no need to, you know, press forward to try to resolve the issues that are in front of us?

What do you think when you look up here?

MONTGOMERY: Congressman, it's hard for me to speak to why there are so few members here today.

CLEAVER: No, no, no, I'm not -- no.

MONTGOMERY: If I understand the question, we have had significant discussions with members not here today, with their staffs and certainly the members who are in the Gulf Coast region, and...

CLEAVER: That's not what I'm talking about, and I don't blame you for avoiding it, because it has nothing to do with you.  In a way, it has something to do with the problem that I think faces this country in almost any issue, and that's attention deficit disorder.

All of the sudden there is no interest, it appears, in this issue, and people are in pain, and I just wonder whether or not both HUD and FEMA would have a different kind of aggressiveness if there appeared to be Herculean interest both from the administration and from Congress.  And you're saying that it wouldn't matter, you're going to do -- I mean, you're going to just push ahead no matter what anyway.  I mean, that's the correct answer.

MONTGOMERY: It's true, sir.  We are pushing.

CLEAVER: I understand.  OK.  Well, I'm trying to make my point too, and hopefully I have -- ADD.

Is training going on now for fair housing and 504 housing accessibility requirements in the flood-ravaged area?  Are you doing training on fair housing and 504?  Mr. Assistant Secretary Kendrick (ph) recently described training on fair housing and 504 accessibility requirements that the department is conducting in the hurricane- affected area.

Can you describe now the training that is going on?

MONTGOMERY: Congressman, I can't get into the level of detail on the training as it's not a program that's under my purview, but I can whole-heartedly say that Assistant Secretary Kendrick (ph) is 100 percent committed to making sure that fair housing remains a large part of the recovery and rebuilding effort in and around the Gulf Coast region and throughout the country.

Early on, staff from fair housing were dispatched to the Gulf Coast region within days, and those staff are still down there, sir. And since that time Assistant Secretary Kendrick (ph) has been sworn in and she has continued that equally aggressive posture in that regard.

CLEAVER: I'm not sure if it's under your purview or not, but has HUD issued -- or do you know if HUD is doing something proactively to make sure that HUD contractors are aware of 504 and fair housing guideline obligations?

MONTGOMERY: Sir, if I could get you a concrete response after this, after I have discussed it with Assistant Secretary Kendrick (ph).

CLEAVER: Thank you very much.

Let's move on.  One of the concerns that seem -- that I think is being kind of overlooked, why is it that the mortgage lenders -- why are mortgage lenders asking evacuees to get vacant property insurance?

MONTGOMERY: I'm sorry, sir?  Property insurance?

CLEAVER: Vacant property insurance.  Evacuees, some have said to us that they're being required to get vacant property insurance.

MONTGOMERY: Sir, I can speak for FHA in that regard.  I can't speak for the conventional market.  But part of our mortgage assistance initiative is we will pay the insurance for that one year period, in addition to the principal, the interest and the taxes, we also pay the insurance.

CLEAVER: OK.  Is the bell out?  I have about 20 more questions.

NEY: Let me just ask one question and we'll go on, if you have some other rounds of questions.

Has HUD completed the damage assessments in the impacted areas? Have you completed those?

MONTGOMERY: Speaking for FHA, sir, those damage assessments continue as we speak.  I've previously shared some of the numbers on the FHA properties.  As far as the levels of damage, whether severely damaged or could be repaired.  Relative to the multifamily portfolio, we have a little more concrete answers, and it appears right now for the three disasters in the Gulf Coast region, the estimated damage for multifamily properties is a little less than $400 million.

NEY: The one thing I wanted to mention, this is what was in a recently updated version of HUD's online report, and I know you took some of those actions on assessing damages. But in the recent report, it says on actions taken in response to Hurricane Katrina, dated November 1, HUD states: "All physical inspections of both public housing and multifamily properties in the impacted counties in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida have been postponed." That was online.  Are you aware of that?

MONTGOMERY: I don't believe -- speaking for our portfolio, sir, I don't believe that's the case any longer.  We have fairly concrete numbers now.

CABRERA: Mr. Chairman, I think what that might be referring to, and I'll go back and double check, is that as part of our customary practice, we do physical inspections, so they mean the physical inspection of units that are required in, I think, public housing. The postponement means we know you're busy trying to recover, so therefore you shouldn't expect HUD of any of its inspectors to knock on the door and assess you based upon damaged property.  I think that's what they intend by stating that.

NEY: Do you know why the proposal, everything we've seen so far from the administration, why it didn't include designated funding for repairing and rebuilding the damaged and destroyed public housing properties?  Or is that altered and there is now a proposal to do that?  In other words, restoring public housing that was damaged in those areas, is there something in the administration's proposal that would do that?

CABRERA: I think the administration is committed to restoring multifamily housing to the extent that the president is committed or made it clear that New Orleans needs to recover, because it's critical to the United States.

I think the issue is that there are a lot of ways to recover inventory, and I'm not entirely sure that it's just an issue of the public housing appropriation.  I also think that part of the appropriation and the supplemental is designed to deal with, to either rehabilitate or build units of one kind or another for affordable housing.

NEY: I'm going to move on to our ranking member.  I just think as this -- I have other questions which I will ask, but the housing authorities and what had to happen and moving people and brand new Section 8 vouchers and people have gone across the country with all these issues that are out there.

I just think that we're going to have to be careful in the Congress, I believe, to make sure that as we try to help people that HUD then doesn't, you know, try to assume the cost of this all and then people that are on waiting lists in other parts of the country don't have help.  I mean I think that's something that we've got to be very, very careful, frankly, to watch.

Our ranking member?

WATERS: I know that you've probably been asked some of these questions more than once, but what is amazing me as I examine what FEMA is supposed to be doing and what HUD is doing, I just believe that there are just tremendous resources, but we don't feel the impact of those resources out there.

Let me just ask you, Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program. HUD is responsible for administering the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program, will provide up to 18 months of temporary rental assistance for tens of thousands of families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, will jointly administer this program with the help of approximately 2,500 public housing authorities to those receiving HUD assistance before the hurricane struck.

To be eligible, displaced families must register with FEMA. Families will be given a rental subsidy based on -- OK.  So FEMA handles this program for you, for the victims of the disaster?  They register with FEMA, those who are eligible for the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program?  They register with FEMA?  Is that how it works?

CABRERA: Typically what happens is that anyone who is a storm victim registers with FEMA generally.

WATERS: OK.

CABRERA: If that person happened to have been a tenant in public housing or a recipient of the Section 8 voucher, then the KDHAP program was created in order to provide them with the ability to pay for housing, and that's what KDHAP is designed to do, and we administer KDHAP.

WATERS: How many families or individuals have you assisted who have gone through and gotten their FEMA registration and they have been connected with or identified with one of the persons eligible for KDHAP?  How many of those have you assisted?

CABRERA: The number of people assisted right now is something on the -- can you excuse me just a minute, please?  I'm going to check.

WATERS: Sure, yes.

CABRERA: Approximately 12,500 people have been processed to receive KDHAP.

WATERS: What does that represent in the way of the total number of what you have any way of knowing?

CABRERA: The total of people that are potentially qualified to receive KDHAP is approximately 75,000.  In terms of people who received HUD assistance...

WATERS: What do you think happened to the rest of those folks?

CABRERA: I see, why the difference between 75,000 and 12,500? In many cases, it's finding folks.  In many cases, it's people who have not signed up.  In many cases, issues of eligibility are being dealt with.

It is not an easy thing to locate people after a storm, even 110 days after a storm.

WATERS: Do you have a public relations program or a public service program of some kind where you do outreach to try and say if you were public housing, if you lived in public housing, this is what you do?  Do you have something like that?

CABRERA: Yes, we have.  And we've used it extensively.

WATERS: Congresswoman Lee was asking you about homeless individuals.  This information that you gave us said, "Eligible families include displaced public housing residents, Section 8 voucher holders, other HUD-assisted households, and pre-disaster homeless individuals who are directly affected by the hurricane."

CABRERA: Correct.

WATERS: Do you know if any of those homeless people have been assisted?

CABRERA: As I recall, a lot of those folks are currently receiving KDHAP vouchers, yes.  I don't know the number affirmatively, because, again, it is difficult to ascertain.  These are people who would have to register with FEMA.  In many cases, they do not.

WATERS: OK.  The Federal Housing Administration provides both single and multifamily mortgage insurance.  When there is a disaster declared, the declaration automatically implements certain procedure with regard to FHA-insured mortgages in the effected areas.  These procedures remain in effect for one year.

Who and how can you describe -- who has received assistance from HUD as a result of this declaration?  I'm interested in the mortgage payment problem.  We had a lot of home owners in some of these areas, and most of them can't continue to pay the mortgage, but I guess they will continue to owe.  Some of them were insured and some were not. How do you fit into that?

NEY: Time is expired, but please answer; go ahead and answer the question.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Ranking Member Waters.

Again, speaking only for FHA, we just announced this program last week, and mortgagees out there, rather lenders, are in the process of reaching out to their borrowers who would be eligible for this program.  We've also sent out numerous news releases, media interviews within the region, encouraging people who have FHA mortgages to call their lender as soon as possible.  And I can get you some numbers after this meeting as far as...

WATERS: Just tell me how it works, real quick, if I may.  If they call and they say I can't pay my mortgage, then what happens?

I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

MONTGOMERY: Well, we have to look at their current situation, but if they do qualify for the program, then we will forebear.  We will put off those payments for a period of up to 12 months.

WATERS: Up to 12 months?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, ma'am.

WATERS: So it's too soon to know whether or not anybody has taken advantage of that program?  It's recent?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, ma'am.  We just announced it last week.  And I will get you some numbers after this meeting and communicate those back to your office.

WATERS: And you will make that program aware to the mortgage holders, the banks and what have you, and they will tell the people that they can have their mortgages placed on hold for a year?

MONTGOMERY: The lender, if you will...

WATERS: The lender, yes.

MONTGOMERY: ... will sit down with the borrower, and look at their assessment, look at the damage assessment, and determine whether or not they're eligible for the program, because it's the lender's loan.  FHA just provides the insurance.

WATERS: All right, Mr. Chairman, I'll follow up on that.  I still want to know some more information about that, but I know you have to move on.  Thank you.

NEY: Other final questions?  Ms. Lee?

LEE: I'd like to ask you about HUD's contracting authority and what exactly takes place as it relates to housing and community development effort in this whole Katrina response.

Several of us met with the African-American Chamber of Commerce and Minority and Small Businesses and, of course, the concern right after Katrina was that these companies have been shutout of the primary contracts in terms of cleanup and all the immediate kind of work.  Does HUD intend to or are you contracting any of these programs out now or will you be?  And, if so, what type of contracts will you be letting?

MONTGOMERY: Congresswoman, we have our Assistant Secretary for Community and Planning Development here.  Maybe she would like to respond to those questions.  I will offer, though, that HUD as an agency, I believe, leads the government in contracts with minority and disadvantaged firms and 8A contracts.  I know they have an outstanding record in that regard.

PAMELA PATENAUDE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT: Congresswoman, if I could just echo Assistant Secretary Montgomery, the -- is very committed to small business and it's actually a procurement question.

LEE: And minority business?

PATENAUDE: Absolutely.

LEE: Small and minority owned businesses?  OK.

NEY: And what does -- I'm sorry, will the gentlelady yield.

Why don't you recognize yourself for the record.

PATENAUDE: I'm sorry.  I'm Pam Patenaude.  I'm assistant secretary for Office of Community Planning and Development.

NEY: Thank you.

LEE: Could you tell us, give us an example of the type of contracts that will be coming down the pike as it relates to the Katrina efforts?

MONTGOMERY: Most of the efforts relating to contracting at MPIH (ph), we've worked within the context of the existing contracts.  A lot of those servicers are 8A and minority owned contracts, and we've simply within the gambit of the law, within what's permissible, expanded that servicing.

What's coming down the pike, honestly, Congresswoman, I don't know.  But I think one of the things you're asking me is whether HUD will have to do, for example, debris removal or will HUD do other kinds of emergency response functions.  And typically, the answer from PIH's perspective, and not to speak for either of my two colleagues, but generally from HUD's perspective is no. That's typically handled by FEMA.

LEE: OK, but is there a way, though, that we can get an idea of what you will be contracting out in terms of the Katrina response?

MONTGOMERY: I'm happy to inquire and get back to your office on that.

LEE: OK.  Thank you very much.  And also what the plans are, if it's strictly expanding 8A contracts to include a larger scope of work, let us know that, or just what exactly you plan to do with these new funds.  Thanks very much.

NEY: Thank you.

Mr. Cleaver?

CLEAVER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm going to give you the HUD-funding targeted for the rescission package and I want you to tell me if it will have an adverse impact on what we're trying to do in the gulf region.

$100 million for Section 8-11, disabled housing construction program; $24 million for the HUD Brownfields Redevelopment Grant; and $6 million in credit subsidies for the CDBG Section 8 program. Those are all targeted for rescission.  What impact will that have on what we're trying to do in the gulf region?

MONTGOMERY: Sir, relative to 8-11, the $100 million was unobligated funds.  Those funds had not yet been obligated.

CLEAVER: So there is no impact?  Is that what you're saying?

MONTGOMERY: Sir, it's difficult to say what that impact would have been since they were unobligated, but that's the decision that was made.

CLEAVER: Brownfields.  I mean, if there has ever been a brownfield explosion, it would be certainly in the Ninth Ward.  And $24 million is being cut from the brownfields programs.

MONTGOMERY: And, Congressman, I would ask that Assistant Secretary Patenaude, who administers that program...

PATENAUDE: We have money still available in fiscal year '05.  We have not awarded the '05 awards and we do anticipate having $10 million in '06.

CLEAVER: So they were unobligated?  These were brownfields dollars that were available that cities were not awarded?

PATENAUDE: They have not been awarded yet, for '05.  They will be shortly.

CLEAVER: They will be awarded shortly?

PATENAUDE: Correct.

CLEAVER: So we can't count that as dollars that will be used in New Orleans?

PATENAUDE: That competition was underway prior to the hurricane.

CLEAVER: Yes, that's the precise point I'm making.  So $24 million in a rescission for brownfields will have an impact on what we're going to need to do in New Orleans?

PATENAUDE: We will still have $10 million available in fiscal year '06 for brownfields.

CLEAVER: So the $24 million is irrelevant to what we want to do in New Orleans?

PATENAUDE: It could have a potential impact.  It's a competitive program.

CLEAVER: I'm familiar.  I'm a former mayor.  I'm familiar with all of these programs, very familiar with them.  And since New Orleans cannot compete, probably, right now, in terms of developing the programs and making all of the assessments, how are we going to deal with brownfield problems and no money?  I mean, they can't compete. You're saying that the cities have already competed.  And also -- go ahead.

PATENAUDE: My general deputy is sitting behind me here.

In '06 we will have $10 million available.

CLEAVER: For New Orleans?

PATENAUDE: Right, and that would have to be part of the supernova for fiscal year '06. And New Orleans would be eligible to compete for those dollars.

CLEAVER: OK, so if we had, say, four major projects, let's say five or six large service stations or some other highly toxic soil, it will take up to $10 million. So what we're saying is that there is a minuscule amount of money compared with the need, that will go to New Orleans.  I mean, $10 million, God bless everybody, but, and I mean I wish I had 10, but, you know, $10 million in my pocket is different than $10 million in New Orleans after this flood and after the contamination level that made the whole city a brownfield.

So $10 million is insufficient, isn't that right?

(UNKNOWN): Would the gentleman yield so that I could give you some information that may be helpful with this questioning?

CLEAVER: Yes, ma'am.

(UNKNOWN): I'm told by staff that the $24 million in brownfields has been rescinded.  They sent in a request for rescinding that money, along with $100 million for section 8-11 and $6 million for CDBG.

CLEAVER: Yes, that's -- I just gave them that information, and I'm asking...

(UNKNOWN): She said it was going to be awarded?

CLEAVER: She said that there was $10 million that was not awarded last year that will be used in New Orleans.

As a former mayor, I'm saying that $10 million in Kansas City, the largest city in the state of Missouri, wouldn't deal with 10 blocks.  We're talking about a whole city that is a brownfield.  It is a brownfield.  Brownfield, Louisiana.  So we don't have enough money, right, for the brownfield...

PATENAUDE: We have $14 million still available for fiscal year '05 and $10 million for the fiscal year '06, after the rescission.

CLEAVER: So we would have had $48 million without the rescission?

NEY: Any additional questions?  Time is expired.

CLEAVER: I haven't had...

PATENAUDE: We're dealing here with two fiscal years.

CLEAVER: I understand.

PATENAUDE: And that $24 million rescission is for fiscal year '05.

CLEAVER: And so we don't have enough money?

NEY: Right.

CLEAVER: Can somebody else answer this?  Somebody over here?  Do we have enough money?

PATENAUDE: Sir, the CDBG program can also be used for...

NEY: Can I -- can the gentleman yield?

No, we don't.

CLEAVER: OK.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

NEY: Seriously, it's going to take billions for the infrastructure, just the clean up.  That's my opinion.  I'm not -- I think it's going to take billions.  Any response to that?

CLEAVER: Well, write it down and don't sign your name to it.  I just -- I mean -- when you look at the rescission and you look at the problems that are out there. Does HUD support this, the rescissions?

MONTGOMERY: Sir, there were some -- relative to all the rescissions, obviously this was a disaster of unprecedented scale. Some difficult decisions had to be made.

CLEAVER: So HUD doesn't support it.

MONTGOMERY: Sir, that was a decision that was made on the rescissions.

CLEAVER: Somebody not in HUD made it.

You're very kind and God bless you.  Have a nice holiday season. I appreciate everything.

NEY: And if we could follow up with questions that you have and we would like them back in writing.

I want to also note this is Cindy Chetti's (ph) birthday. Cindy, raise your hand.  So, happy birthday.  She does a lot of work on this committee and helps a lot.

I want to thank the members.  I want to thank HUD.  I appreciate your patience today and follow-up questions I think will be important.

So, with that, we may have additional questions for this panel that they may want to submit in writing.  Without objection the hearing will remain open for 30 days for members to submit their questions and for the witnesses to place their response.

Thank you very much.

CABRERA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member.

END

 

NOTES:

[????] - Indicates Speaker Unknown

   [--] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.[off mike] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.

 

PERSON: ROBERT W NEY (92%); RICHARD H BAKER (57%); PETER T KING (56%); CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (56%); WALTER B JONES (56%); VIRGINIA 'GINNY' BROWN-WAITE (55%); RICK RENZI (54%); STEVE PEARCE (54%); KATHERINE HARRIS (54%); GEOFF DAVIS (53%); RANDY NEUGEBAUER (53%); MICHAEL G OXLEY (52%); MAXINE WATERS (52%); NYDIA M VELAZQUEZ (51%); JULIA CARSON (51%); BARBARA LEE (51%); BRADLEY MILLER (50%); STEPHEN F LYNCH (50%);

 

LOAD-DATE: December 20, 2005


 



19.   Times-Picayune (New Orleans), “FEMA loses ruling on hotel deadline; Order lets evacuees stay until Feb. 7,” December 13, 2005

 

585 of 1984 DOCUMENTS

 

 

Copyright 2005 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company

Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

 

December 13, 2005 Tuesday

 

SECTION: METRO; Pg. 1

 

LENGTH: 512 words

 

HEADLINE: FEMA loses ruling on hotel deadline;

Order lets evacuees stay until Feb. 7

 

BYLINE: By Susan Finch, Staff writer

 

BODY:

A government program that has been paying for tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees to stay in hotel rooms around the nation while they look for other housing must be extended to Feb. 7, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's temporary restraining order followed his Friday hearing on a class-action lawsuit that charges that weeks after the hurricane, the Federal Emergency Management Agency still hasn't acted on temporary housing assistance applications from thousands of evacuees and has failed to provide the help to many storm victims who qualify for it.

In a 27-page decision, Duval seemed to agree, calling FEMA's actions regarding its subsidy of hotel and motel rooms for evacuees "notoriously erratic and numbingly insensitive."

The restraining order, in effect until Duval holds a Feb. 23-24 preliminary injunction hearing on the case, also provides that:

-- No person can be thrown out of the hotel lodging program earlier than Jan. 7, even if before that date the person has received, or been denied, a FEMA trailer or a rent subsidy;

-- Every evacuee in a government-subsidized hotel room can stay for two weeks  --  though not beyond Feb. 7  --  after getting a FEMA trailer or rent money, or being denied such help;

--  FEMA must stop telling evacuees seeking help to get temporary housing that they first must apply for a Small Business Administration loan and must serve notice to everyone who has or will seek disaster assistance that no such requirement exists.

FEMA had been planning a Dec. 15 end to the hotel lodging program for evacuees in most of the United States. To date, the agency has paid out an estimated $350 million to rent more than 41,000 hotels rooms to house hurricane evacuees.

FEMA officials told Duval on Friday that the ten states with more than 90 percent of Katrina evacuees, Louisiana among them, could ask the agency to extend the program to Jan. 7. Such requests had been approved for Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, they said.

Noting that most of the people affected by the Jan. 7 deadline are the poorest evacuees or those who lost virtually everything they owned to Katrina, Duval said that by establishing such an arbitrary deadline, FEMA has violated its congressional mandate to provide disaster relief assistance without discriminating on grounds of economic status.

New York lawyer Howard Godnick, whose firm handled the lawsuit at no charge to the plaintiffs, noted that while Duval did not set a timetable for FEMA to act on applications for temporary housing aid, the judge left the door open to reconsider if the agency doesn't make substantial progress on that front.

"So at least for the thousands of victims who are in hotels and have not received any assistance, there is at least some glimmer of hope, and a Christmas," Godnick said.

The restraining order includes clear mandates for FEMA to speed up its handling of evacuees' claims, said Godnick, whose firm ordinarily represents financial institutions.

"My hope would be, come Feb. 23, that this case would be mooted out," he said.

 

LOAD-DATE: December 13, 2005