Good News: The Check is in the Mail (Sort of)

The 2006 hurricane season ends today, November 30. With a whimper, thankfully.

After the record-breaking 2005 season, the one bringing us Wilma, Katrina, Rita, and several of their siblings, we welcomed the peace and quiet of this year. The experts, you might recall, had predicted 2006 would bring us from 13 to 16 named storms (we had 9), with 8 to 10 of these being full-blown hurricanes (we had 5). They–that is, the National Weather Service–had said we should expect 4 to 6 major hurricanes. We had 2.

One forecaster had warned that the probability of a major hurricane hitting somewhere along Katrina-land’s Gulf Coast this year was a whopping 47 percent. Wonder what new line of work he is considering.

Now, compare all of that with the predictions of the same government bureau for the year 2005. They called for 11-15 named storms; we had 28. They predicted 6 to 9 hurricanes; we had 15. And they said we should expect from 2 to 4 major hurricanes. We had 7.

Some years ago, after the forecasters badly missed a call on a hurricane–I forget the details–I had the custodian at our Kenner church post this message on the giant sign fronting Williams Boulevard: “My son is a weather forecaster. Pray he will find honest work.”

Is it all right if we say the obvious here? They don’t have a clue.

Governor Blanco is asking President Bush to intervene with the IRS and see that the grants given to our people to help rebuild their homes are not taxed. Her administration announced that Louisiana will not ask residents to pay state tax on the money they receive from these LRA grants.

Speaking of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the administrators of the “Road Home” program announced that they have sent out the 10,000 final award notices to homeowners. Early in November, Blanco had grown impatient with the slow pace of these awards–just a dozen or two had been sent out by then–and demanded the contracted agency step it up and get out 10,000 by the end of November. Thursday morning’s Times-Picayune says as of Wednesday, only 54 residents have actually received their checks to date.

So, what does one do with an “award letter”? Carefully read it, then select one of three options: use the grant money to rebuild or renovate, sell the property to the state and use the money toward buying another home in Louisiana, or selling it to the state with no plans to stay here. If you choose the third option, the size of the grant will be reduced for homeowners under 65. Then…

Secondly, call the Road Home call center if you have a question. 888/762-3252, then press 6. Third, mail the document indicating your choice of options back to the address on the letter. Then, sit back and wait for a call from the center, hopefully within days, to schedule a “grant closing.”

At the award closing, you may have to clarify and verify issues about insurance payments you have received. That money will be subtracted form your LRA award.

Finally, you are cautioned to resolve any outstanding property title issues before the closing. In situations where the homeowner has died during or since the storm and family members are heirs of the estate, this could be sticky.

So far, the average award calculated per household is $64,992, officials report.

I’m speaking tonight (Thursday, November 30) at a ministers and spouses Christmas dinner in the Natchitoches, Louisiana, area, where Lee Dickson is the wonderful director of missions. And preaching Sunday morning at 10:30 am at Poydras Baptist Church where John Galey is the outstanding pastor.