“Mr. Vice President, please make good on your word.”May 30th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: News
Sen. David Vitter—along with 14 other officials, including St. Bernard School Board Superintendent Doris Voitier— sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden regarding his assurances of clemency in the ongoing odyssey of disaster loan forgiveness.
In the letter dated May 23, these local officials reminded Vice President Biden of his public promise that the parish’s loans would be forgiven by FEMA and the federal government.
“During your last trip to Louisiana, on January 15, 2010, you announced what appeared to be some good news for Louisiana regarding Community Disaster Loan (CDL) forgiveness,” read the letter. “At a visit to the St. Bernard Recreation Center, you emphatically shouted about CDL forgiveness: “I advise you to apply quickly, because when you apply you going to get the right answer… You’re going to get your money!
“Mr. Vice President, that just has not happened.”
The letter, written almost a year and one half after Biden’s statements, outlines the staggering number of loans still to be forgiven.
“Only 25 percent of valid local government applicants have been granted full forgiveness…that means that 75 percent of these applicants have not gotten the result you so clearly and empathetically promised them,” the letter states.
The letter also points out the inconsistencies in FEMA’s treatment of loan applications, and how regulations are actually punishing those parishes that were fiscally responsible in the wake of the disaster.
“We were all heartened by [Biden’s] comments,” Superintendent Doris Voitier said. “Now it seems like the application is requiring a deficit for those three years [after Katrina].”
“We were careful to live within the budget,” Voitier said of the little over $4 million in loans, that could have been in excess of $34 million according to the superintendent. “We feel we were responsible stewards of the public money, and now we’re being penalized, and it will take us a longer period of time to pay back.”
The officials who signed the letter are asking Vice President Biden to personally appear with FEMA administrator William Craig Fugate for a meeting. The hope is to expedite the process of loan forgiveness, by cutting through much unnecessary red tape and dealing with the source.
The outcome Vitter, Voitier, and the rest of the officials seek is surmised in the simple statement near the bottom of the letter: “Mr. Vice President, please make good on your promise.”
Currently, St. Bernard has been forgiven the $18 million in Community Disaster Loans lent to the parish government. Parish President Craig Taffaro signed the paperwork with FEMA in August 2010. However, the school system has yet to see any of their loans forgiven.