Where Did All that Hurricane Money Go?

The three year anniversary of Hurricane Ike is right around the corner. Local agencies say because of Ike, they received more than 30-million dollars in federal government recovery funds. Some say the entire process is a model for the rest of the country.

Both the government and agencies that specialize in serving the community learned a lot from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans: what worked and didn’t work. So after Hurricane Ike they say the recovery effort went much smoother.

Carolyn Rose heads the Gulf Coast Center in Galveston which helped get 7.3 million dollars for help related to mental health issues.

"We added additional crises counseling in our communities both Galveton/Brazoria counties. Put more folks on the ground doing individual and group counseling for individuals who were facing a mental health: who were depressed, who were sad who were anxious. We also provided mental health support to first responders who had been dealing and helping individuals recover from Hurricane Ike."

She says the public usually thinks about the average home owner, who may need help repairing a roof. But she says many social service agencies were damaged as well, for instance, an area substance abuse treatment center.

"We lost over forty beds for substance abuse treatment after Hurricane Ike due to the agency not returning, or just the facility being lost."

After Katrina much was made about the high number of fraud cases. Kathy Tiernan with the University of Texas Medical Branch says that didn’t happen this time around. There were no FEMA debit cards being passed out and workers did a good job of substantiating each claim.

"The idea the people came from out of town or tried to commit fraud in those types of ways, I don’t think we really experienced that, because we were working with people that we by and large knew in our neighborhoods and in our communities."

UTMB was one of the lead agencies that helped apply for and distribute the federal money, another was Gulf Coast Interfaith.

I asked Joe Campion, one of their leaders if he thinks the general public was happy with how things went.

"You’re always going to find somebody that’s dissatisfied about something. That’s the reality of the world that we live in and our country today. I think that our focus has to be on the individuals whose lives were restored."

Campion says the recovery effort was handled so well that many are calling it a model for the country and future efforts.