(CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., temporarily blocked the Louisiana Recovery Authority from disbursing hurricane relief grants that allegedly favor white homeowners.
Through the Road Home program, the Louisiana Recovery Authority distributes more than $11 billion in grant money to the owners of homes damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Each grant is equal to the value of the home before the storm or the cost of repairing the home, whichever is less.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, the National Fair Housing Alliance and five New Orleans homeowners sued, claiming the formula used to dispense repair grants marginalizes black residents, whose homes are generally worth less than the homes of white residents.
They said the disparity in home values resulted in lower average grants for minorities.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. barred the program from distributing its remaining funds based on pre-storm home value until a final verdict has been reached.
Grants awarded before the judgment will not be affected.
The court previously refused to prevent the distribution of funds because it would set back the recovery process.
Judge Kennedy’s order allows recovery efforts to continue while preventing further unequal treatment.
Robin Keegan, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said the agency would appeal the decision.