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N.O. Mayor: Red Tape Slows Rebuilding

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin discusses his city's recovery nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina during the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 18, 2006.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Bureaucracy and lack of funding continue to slow the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin said in an interview Monday.

As the one-year anniversary of the storm approaches on Aug. 29, the city still struggles financially, despite billions of dollars in congressional appropriations, he said.

"People think New Orleans is wallowing in dough, and we have money coming out of our ears," Nagin said.

But little of the appropriated money has reached the city, he said. Only a small fraction of the $1 billion requested for essential infrastructure has been approved by federal officials.

Even President Bush on Monday acknowledged the sluggish pace of aid to Louisiana. At a White House news conference, Bush said the federal government has committed $110 billion to Katrina relief and the money was taking longer to get to those who deserved it in Louisiana than in Mississippi.

New Orleans is operating on about a quarter of its pre-Katrina revenue because of the loss of residents and businesses — even though the city's needs have grown tenfold, Nagin said.

A state-run home buyout program expected to aid residents who don't have enough insurance to rebuild is just starting; residents have not yet received individual aid.

The delay in funding combined with questions about how the levees will be rebuilt, delays in the release of flood maps, dramatic increases in insurance rates and a shortage of contractors have "contributed to us not having as much momentum as we should," Nagin said.