With city and county’s initial Katrina evacuee efforts starting to wind down, state and local officials are now turning their attention to the cost of the response and how to recoup those loses.
Housing thousands of evacuees has cost the city and county millions of dollars of the past few weeks, money that wasn’t budgeted for. Now, Governor Rick Perry has started the process of getting that money back, appointing State Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams to lead the long-term recovery effort. Williams say Houston deserves to be reimbersed for what it’s spent hosting thousands of people.
The county has paid for much of the cost of housing evacuees, money that’s come from reserves, a safeguard that’s kept normal services from being affected. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels says there’s no indication the government won’t reimburse Houston’s generosity.
Meantime, shelters continue to empty-out at Reliant Park, with the Astrodome virtually empty now and only a few thousand in other shelters across the city. The remaining evacuees are in the process of settling in Reliant Arena. Incident Commander Lt. Joe Leonard says he’d prefer to see everyone in better housing soon.
He says housing officials are still looking for more permanent places for evacuees to stay, but have run into some roadblocks when it comes to finding special needs housing for evacuees with long-term disabilities.