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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Class Action Accuses Louisiana|Of Intimidating Katrina Victims

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Officials who run the State of Louisiana's "Road Home" program, created to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, lie to and intimidate applicants to prevent them from getting grants from the poorly run, chaotic program, according to a federal class action.

About 104,000 grants have been closed from 155,000 applications, though not all grantees have received money, and the state allegedly failed to disclose the bases on which it awards grants, falsely told applicants the grants are not subject to judicial review, and threatened to hold applicants liable if they did sue, in good faith, to contest a grant.

The Louisiana Road Home program is funded through Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Defendants, state Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis and Office of Community Development Executive Director Suzie Elkins allegedly committed these infractions, among others:

"Losing applicants' supplied documents proving residency, ownership, insurance and FEMA payments;

"Refusing to accept applicants' papers, including applicant-supplied certified appraisals, [and] other proof of damages ...

"Failing to disclose the basis of awards and details and status concerning dispute resolution and determinations, in writing, as required by LRA [LRA is not defined] policy;

"Failing to provide complete applicant files when requested by applicants as required by LRA policy;

"Deleting documents and information in some applicant files;

"Calculations with obvious and gross mathematical errors ...

"Concealing from applicants changes that lower the amount of awards until closing, contrary to LRA policy;

"Intimidating applicants to close for lesser amounts than originally told or be placed 'at the back of the line' or in an 'inactive' category ...

"These and other documented problems with the Road Home Program have only worsened since its inception, in part because Defendants claim immunity from state judicial oversight."

Plaintiffs, represented by Silvestri and Massicot, demand filing extensions, declaratory judgment, and an injunction that will "immediately remove the judicial review and fee-shifting language contained in the Grant Agreement and any other document required to be signed by any Road Home applicant".

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