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Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Saturday he was “ashamed for our country” after visiting the thousands of FEMA-owned mobile homes lined up at Hope Airport that have yet to be used as shelters for hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast.
“I can’t imagine that we could have a sea of 11,000 mobile homes sitting there, rotting, while people around the country can’t find a place to live,” the Nevada Democrat said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said that it was unable to put the trailers to use because federal regulations prohibit placing them in flood plains, and many of those needing shelter after the hurricanes are in areas classified as flood-prone.
Cost estimates for the trailers have ranged from $350 million to $800 million.
“I’m terribly mystified, disappointed and ashamed for our country,” said Reid, who visited the site with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
The two senators said they wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to sign an executive order for a temporary exemption from the flood-plain regulations.
Reid said he was particularly appalled because he knows that, in Pass Christian, Miss., for example, more than 100 hurricane victims are living in a flood plain in tents.
“I ask you, are they better off?” he said.
Earlier, at Little Rock, Reid also said he was galled by Bush’s suggestion last week during a visit to New Orleans, where many neighborhoods remain uninhabitable, that Congress was slowing down the recovery process.
Reid said that, if President Bush had presented a budget that included what would realistically be needed to bring Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama back from the disastrous conditions they were left in after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress would now be approving funding amounts that would meet those needs.
Bush has said Congress “shortchanged the process” by diverting $1.5 billion in levee-rebuilding money to non-New Orleans-related projects. He said Congress should rechannel that money to levee rebuilding and should approve a $4.2 billion allotment for housing in Louisiana, rather than spread that housing money among all the damaged states.
“I was kind of upset. He’s blaming all this on Congress, and then he has the audacity to say what limited money he’s helped us get, put it all on Louisiana. That’s not fair,” Reid said Saturday. “I’m very, very disappointed.”