U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo says he voted against funding to pay the Hurricane Sandy flood insurance claims because of the deficit, but as the chief financial officer for the Biloxi Public Housing Authority in 2005, Palazzo asked for federal relief despite the nation’s debt.
The authority listed $38.5 million in “Total Funds Needed Right Away” in a handout published one month after Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi’s coast, the Sun Herald reports.
The handout, still posted on the authority’s website, quotes Palazzo as calling for immediate aid : “Tell our national leaders — don’t send more inspectors — we know what’s damaged and how to fix it. Send us money so we can put our families back together and do our part to rebuild our community.”
Palazzo has been criticized for joining 66 other House Republicans who voted last Friday against adding $9.7 billion to pay National Flood Insurance Program claims. The bill passed the House and Senate, with Palazzo the only Mississippi representative or senator opposing it.
Congress had to bail out NFIP after Katrina’s devastating losses, resulting in an $18 billion NFIP debt. NFIP is once again running out of money to cover flood losses.
Palazzo said Friday after the vote that he thinks the nation needs to come to grips with how the federal government funds disaster relief, plus find spending cuts to offset the future Sandy relief package. He said he is working on such legislation, but will in the end support Sandy relief.
A statement sent to the media Friday evening from Palazzo spokesperson Laura Chambers said: “Congressman Palazzo fully supports a Sandy relief package that includes spending offsets. On the heels of a fiscal cliff deal that added $4 trillion to our existing $16 trillion national debt, we must ensure that disaster relief is paid for.
“He also hopes we will be able to have a much-needed national discussion on disaster relief reform in the coming days,” Chambers continued.
Reaction to opponents has been negative. A Sunday story from the New York Daily News was headlined: “Remember the 67 Republicans in House of Representatives who turned their backs on Hurricane Sandy victims.”
Sportswriter Mike Lupica singled out Palazzo in the story, writing: “Perhaps the worst phony of all of them is Rep. Steven Palazzo, out of Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District, which happens to be situated on the Gulf Coast. Apparently the government was supposed to come rebuild Biloxi and the rest of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, but is supposed to tell Breezy Point and Staten Island and Jersey to figure it out for themselves.”
Public housing relief in Mississippi eventually totaled $110 million for Mississippi’s three coastal counties. Harrison County, where Palazzo lives, received $72 million in funding for public housing alone, according to figures compiled in 2010 by the office of former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, whom Palazzo defeated to take office in 2011.
Congress poured a total of at least $24.6 billion into direct Mississippi Katrina relief.