Road Home contractor blamed for slow recovery

Nearly eight months after it was hired by the state, a consulting company in charge of dispensing billions in federal aid to people whose homes were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has received 103-thousand applications.  However, it has handed out fewer than 400 grants.

Now the company is getting much of the blame for the overall slow recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Frustrated homeowners are bitterly criticizing Virginia-based I-C-F International, and state lawmakers are demanding Governor Kathleen Blanco fire the company.

But I-C-F is defending its handling of the aid program, saying it is a task of unprecedented proportions.

I-C-F was awarded a contract valued at up to 756 million dollars in June to run the Road Home program.

Reed Kroloff, who is dean of Tulane University's architecture school and has been deeply involved in the post-Katrina planning, said Road Home's problems are among the biggest roadblocks to New Orleans' recovery.

He cited the slow pace of I-C-F pay-outs, coupled with the program's late start, 10 months after Katrina, and "inexcusable delaying" by the government at all levels.

I-C-F maintains it's ahead of the schedule specified in its contract to run Road Home, a program it helped design before winning the bid.

I-C-F officials also say the program is unparalleled in size and complexity. More than two-thousand people are at work on Road Home.