This page contains information about the recovery work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
About the Recovery Office
The FEMA Louisiana Recovery Office was established to support the state following the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Originally operating as a Joint Field Office, the office transitioned into a longer term Recovery Office in April 2006. The Office is a part of FEMA Region VI and is under the direction of Regional Administrator Tony Robinson. Locally, the Office is led by Director Mike Womack.
FEMA continues to be an integral part of the recovery following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The recovery is not without its challenges, as the magnitude of both Katrina and Rita presented unprecedented levels of destruction.
Katrina alone was the single most catastrophic natural disaster and costliest hurricane in U.S. history. A total of 1,833 people lost their lives during Katrina, with 1,577 in Louisiana, and more than one million people in the Gulf region were displaced by the storm. At their peak, hurricane relief shelters housed 273,000 people. The federal government has spent $120.5 billion on the Gulf region, post-Katrina. The majority of that money, $75 billion, went to emergency relief operations. The National Flood Insurance Program paid out $16.1 billion in claims, with $13 billion going toward claims in Louisiana.
Compounding the challenges for response and recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita dealt a destructive blow to Louisiana and Texas less than a month later. Hurricane Rita, a category 5, was the fourth largest hurricane to strike the United States. In Louisiana, it primarily affected the southwest parishes of Cameron and Calcasieu, causing widespread flooding and wind damage.
With the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, FEMA continues to work with local governments and organizations to build back from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and, in doing so, rebuild stronger and safer communities.
Below are highlights of recovery efforts from Aug. 29, 2005 through Sept. 30, 2013.
Mike Womack, Louisiana Recovery Office Director
Thomas “Mike” Womack serves as the director for FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office. As the Director, Womack oversees FEMA’s recovery operations in Louisiana for hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Womack joined FEMA in 2012 as lead for the FEMA National Disaster Closeout Team. Prior to that, he served in the Army National Guard for nearly 30 years. He also served as the Response and Recovery Director and then Deputy Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Former Governor Haley Barbour appointed Womack Executive Director of MEMA in 2006, where he served until 2012.
He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this position and to the Louisiana Recovery Office.
Public Assistance provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of eligible private nonprofit organizations. Projects include roads and bridges, publicly owned utilities, police and fire departments, schools, healthcare facilities and public transportation.
In Louisiana, more than $11.9 billion in FEMA Public Assistance funds has helped rebuild public infrastructure damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as reimburse local governments for debris removal and emergency protective measures. FEMA aid has enabled significant impacts across various public sectors, including approximately:
- $3.88 billion for education and learning facilities,
- $1.04 billion for public safety facilities,
- $5.87 billion for general infrastructure (e.g., roads, transportation, parks and sewerage and water facilities) and
- $1.16 billion for healthcare facilities.
Environmental Historic Preservation
The FEMA Environmental and Historic Preservation Department works in close coordination with FEMA’s grant programs to ensure that federal funding is implemented in a manner consistent with Environmental and Historical Preservation laws. EHP also works with local, state, tribal and federal entities to ensure that environmental and historic preservation concerns are addressed in the recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As part of its compliance responsibilities, EHP has implemented a number of measures benefitting the public and preparing Louisiana for a possible future disaster, including:
- Survey of more than 40,000 buildings in New Orleans neighborhoods, which was utilized to create National Register Historic Districts and to provide local and state preservation agencies with up-to-date information about the historic resources in the city;
- Digitization of more than 55,000 State Historic Preservation Office Standing Structure Survey and National Register files for future online access;
- Archaeological surveys and analysis adding to the understanding of the history of Louisiana;
- Creation of The History of Building Elevation in New Orleans;
- Creation and installation of historic plaques and markers.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Area Infrastructure Projects website shares with the public the efforts being made by FEMA in southern Louisiana regarding the environmental compliance for proposed public infrastructure projects.
Mitigation's mission is to create safer communities by reducing loss of life and property, enabling individuals to recover more rapidly from floods and other disasters and lessening the financial impact of disasters on the Nation. FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program helps communities rebuild stronger and smarter by providing grants for projects that are designed to save lives and protect properties. In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA has made more than $1.86 billion in HMGP funding available to the state of Louisiana.
The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) primarily consisted of two types of monetary assistance: Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance for qualified individuals with disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance. The program also offered direct housing assistance in the form of temporary housing units.
Housing Assistance helped renters and homeowners whose primary residences were damaged or destroyed, as well as those who were displaced from their homes due to the disaster. The four main provisions of the Housing Assistance Program were:
- Rent – Limited rental payments were provided to homeowners and renters who could not or should not live in their homes due to disaster-related damage.
- Repairs – Funding to cover labor and material costs for disaster-related home repairs.
- Replacement – Funds help homeowners pay a down payment for a replacement home, when their primary residences were destroyed by the disaster.
- Lodging Expenses – Either reimbursement to a disaster assistance applicant, or direct payment to a hotel, when a temporary lodging expense has been incurred.
Other Needs Assistance
The Other Needs Assistance program helped individuals and families with serious and necessary uninsured losses caused by the disaster. Examples of disaster-related expenses included reimbursement for medical/dental bills, funeral costs, and moving and storage fees, as well as funds for transportation and personal property repair or replacement.
- FEMA provided more than $5.8 billion to help 915,884 Louisiana families and individuals recover and begin rebuilding following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This includes nearly $4.2 billion provided for housing assistance and $1.6 billion in Other Needs Assistance to replace personal property and meet other disaster-related needs.
Direct Housing Assistance
In addition, in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, more than 92,000 Louisiana families were provided with mobile homes and travel trailers for use as temporary housing.
- Baton Rouge Main Number: (225) 242-6000
- New Orleans Main Number: (504) 762-2000
- Media Inquiries: (504) 762-2477