Louisiana Pausing Suits Against Road Home Program Grantees
The Road Home Program helped homeowners in Louisiana impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita with over $9 billion dollars. These recovery grants should have been used to elevate homes and prevent future risks. However, ICF Emergency Management Services, one of the companies hired to manage these funds told homeowners they could also use them for home repairs. This resulted in over 3500 lawsuits against residents so far. The State of Louisiana was seeking $103 million and has already recovered 5%.
On Monday, the State informed the public that it has decided to pause these lawsuits and settle a related lawsuit against the company. If the government approves this settlement then all lawsuits will be dropped. In 2016, the state filed a lawsuit against that company, ICF Emergency Management Services, alleging mismanagement. In late 2020, a mediator assisted the two parties in reaching an agreement.
Among the sued grantees was Celeste Matthews, a homeowner from New Orleans. In an interview for ProPublica, she stated that even though she refused elevation grants she was still awarded $30,000.00. She used these funds to fix her roof which was damaged by the hurricane and she was sued last year. She was also forced to sign a payment plan to pay $250.00 a month for five years, with a $15,000.00 balloon payment due at the end. These are payments she and her husband cannot afford.
“I just want them to stop it now so that I could be able to live whatever time I have left without that hanging over my head,” Hilliard said. “I don’t look for nobody to do nothing for me. When you do me wrong, just fix it.”
Alice Sanders, who uses Social Security, was also “forced” into signing such a payment plan she cannot afford. Both of these women were not represented by lawyers.
“It leaves me with no money. I can’t even buy my own groceries or medicine,” said Sanders, an associate minister who lives in Baton Rouge. “It’s a sin, what they’ve done against their own residents.”
U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, a Democrat, also asks the state to pause these lawsuits. What happens with the suits will be determined by HUD’s decision.
“Conversations are getting more frequent and focused in these past few weeks in the work to end the injustices of the Road Home program,” Carter said. “The state should not continue, and is not required to, keep exacting these punishing actions against my constituents.”