WASHINGTON (CN) – The NAACP says Mississippi is diverting $570 million in federal money intended for hurricane victims and using the money instead to expand a commercial port. The NAACP says HUD misreads the law in saying it has no power to oversee how Mississippi spends the money.
The 51-page federal complaint describes the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the federal government’s incompetent response, and its appropriation of billions of dollars for victims of the storms.
The NAACP and a long list of co-plaintiffs say Mississippi did not start spending its federal housing relief money for 18 months, has spent only 21% of it, and is the only state that regularly sought and received waivers for the requirement that at least 50% of its grants be spent to help poor people and people with moderate incomes.
Now the state wants to spend $570 on a port expansion, and HUD claims it does not have the authority to review the plan, the plaintiffs say.
“HUD’s failure to act is of tragic consequences,” the complaint states. “The agency’s misreading of the law allows Mississippi improperly to siphon off over a half-billion dollars in disaster relief funds for use on a commercial port redevelopment project when those funds are still desperately needed to provide sufficient affordable housing for Mississippi’s low-to-moderate income families.”
Mississippi plans to spend the money on the Port of Gulfport, and to move a CSX rail line farther inland.
Plaintiffs are represented by Noam Fischman with Mintz, Levin & Cohn.