Video: FEMA money trail

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
updated 10/7/2005 9:59:43 AM ET 2005-10-07T13:59:43

NEW ORLEANS -- In the gulf region, it was all about business on Thursday, the business of rebuilding and then the business of just plain trying to get back on the job. 

Facing a growing storm of criticism, acting FEMA Chief David Paulison told a Senate committee Thursday that more than $1.5 billion worth of no-bid contracts for hurricane cleanup and reconstruction work will be rebid. 

"I can assure you that we are going to look at all of those contracts very carefully," said David Paulison, the acting director of FEMA. 

The announcement follows several media reports, including Wednesday's NBC News investigation, that found the government has overpaid millions of dollars for products and projects and diverted work from businesses in storm-ravaged areas that need all the help they can get. 

Scott Schneider, trying to get his New Orleans-based cleaning supply company back on its feet, is not alone in facing several challenges.

"No water, no power, no computer services, no telephone services," explained Schneider, when asked what kinds of problems he's having getting his company back and running.

In New Orleans, nearly 1,500 small business leaders met with the mayor and governor Thursday to hear how they thought this was going to work.  Mayor Nagin says the city's glass isn't just half-full.  It's overflowing. 

"(It's) an incredible opportunity, a once-in-a-300-400-year opportunity, and I would implore you to have patience, to be diligent, to be organized," Nagin said.

And there's more good news today.  Health officials in the city of New Orleans say it is now safe to drink the water again in most of the city. 

Finally, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock of the Army Corps of Engineers had this to say about the levees in New Orleans: "It is our goal that, by the beginning of the next hurricane season, we will have the Category 3 protection that existed prior to Katrina back in place."

That's small reassurance in a region still reeling from a Category 4 storm. 

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