Louisiana taps ICF to manage federal rebuilding grants

The state of Louisiana has awarded a three-year contract to ICF International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to administer $4.6 billion in federal housing grants aimed at reconstruction from last year's hurricanes.

The Louisiana Office of Community Development is paying ICF $87 million for the initial three months. Terms of the rest of the contract are still under negotiation, the company said.

Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's program, qualified homeowners and landlords can receive as much as $150,000 for uninsured, uncompensated damage to their property.

Critics have raised the prospect of fraud and abuse in the large-scale program of housing grants, which can be used not only to repair or rebuild homes in the storm-hit areas but also to relocate.

Douglas Beck, a senior vice president with ICF, said that once the company determines eligibility for a grant through a formula laid out by HUD, money would be allocated to secure accounts through a mortgage lender.

Members of ICF's team and the lending companies will closely monitor the accounts to guard against fraud and abuse, Beck said. Exactly how the monitoring and funds distribution processes will work is still being discussed, he said.

ICF is running a pilot program with a few hundred qualified Louisiana residents and expects to get money to them within 60 days. ICF will know more about how the process will work after the pilot is finished, Beck said.

During the first four months of the contract, ICF and its subcontractors will establish centers across the affected areas of Louisiana to process applications for assistance and to start to provide housing counseling and assistance to displaced residents.

ICF also will conduct an educational outreach program targeting affected people in Louisiana and those who have left. The company has pledged to hire Louisiana citizens in all phases of the program.

So far the program registry already has 90,000 applicants; more than 30,000 qualifying residents have yet to apply, the company said.

Other members of the team are Deltha Corp., First American Title Insurance Co., Jones Walker, KPMG International, Microsoft Corp., Quadel Consulting Corp., Providence Engineering and Environmental Group LLC, The Shaw Group Inc. and STR LLC.

Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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