Thursday, May 10, 2007

We Interrupt This PSA Campaign . . .

The cornerstone of “Governor” Blanco’s recovery program continues to generate embarrassment. The Times-Pic reports the state is cutting short its television ad campaign for the program designed to home owners return and rebuild. The paper reports:

“According to the Division of Administration, which oversees the grant program, the program spent $2.6 million on advertisements that ran from August through October, when the program was just getting under way. The ads ran throughout Louisiana and in Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, where many displaced storm victims have relocated.

The most recent commercials began running in March and were scheduled to cost $1.4 million. The cancellation means about $900,000 worth of those commercials actually ran.”

If ever there was a program the state could enlist media partners to publicize, one would think it would be the Road Home. However, all the free media for the program has been negative so far. It also begs the question, with out-of-state Katrina evacuees largely concentrated in Atlanta and Texas, why did they contract out the work to a Virginia based company, complete with a $19.1 million dollar travel allowance (equivalent to about 254 average home-owners payouts)?

Arguably, the State of Louisiana, particularly under its current leadership, was incapable of administering the program, but one would think there would be qualified companies in nearby Texas, more accessible to the program’s potential beneficiaries and closer to state authorities. Of course, nobody mentions the company in question, ICF, is led by executives with a history of donating to Blanco’s political party.

Oh, and by the way, the state just announced the program faces: “a potential shortfall of more than $2 billion.” This from a program generating rafts of complaints about its tardiness in processing claims. It seems time for a full audit of the program, including the details of the bidding process.