The remaining $872 million is part of $5.5 billion Congress gave the state to rebound from Katrina, which struck in August 2005, killed 238 people in Mississippi and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, most heavily in coastal counties.The usage of Katrina-designated funds has been hotly debated, pretty much since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. As Media Matters noted in 2007, the money has largely been redirected away from those who needed it most:
More than half of the unspent money is tied up in a hotly debated plan to expand the state-owned Port of Gulfport, and millions more are allocated for projects that have yet to materialize.
Critics also complain that some projects are far from the Katrina strike zone and don't seem to have a direct connection to recovery from the hurricane, while others have failed to take root or are not meeting promises of creating jobs.
One of the projects — a parking garage in Starkville near the Mississippi State University football stadium — is more than 200 miles from Katrina's landfall.
On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's August 29, 2005, landfall, the media have largely ignored reports that Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, leading the recovery effort in the state, has repeatedly sought, and obtained, waivers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allowing the state to spend federal funds that would normally be reserved for low- to moderate-income residents on other projects. As a consequence, just 20 percent of the $5.4 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) awarded to the state has been earmarked for programs designed to benefit Mississippi's low- to moderate-income Katrina victims -- less than half of the 50 percent requirement mandated by Congress, according to a recent report by the Steps Coalition, an organization that monitors the Mississippi Homeowners Assistance Program. Moreover, the $1.1 billion in federal funds that have been earmarked for programs benefiting lower income residents have been distributed very slowly. As the Biloxi Sun-Herald reported on August 26, the Steps Coalition said the program has been deficient in "helping people of low-to-moderate incomes." Furthermore, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock wrote in an August 29 Salon.com article that the distribution of federal funding in Mississippi under Barbour "has been badly skewed toward wealthy homeowners."By comparison, Louisiana has already spent the vast majority of the funding it received:
As of March 31, Louisiana had spent about 91 percent of the $10.5 billion it received under the program, according to reports it submitted to HUD.