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HUD okays $4.2-billion for La. hurricane rebuilding program

Published July 12, 2006

NEW ORLEANS - The federal government will pay $4.2-billion into a program to help Louisiana residents rebuild or sell houses severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced it would provide $1-billion for hurricane-related housing needs in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida, and called on those states to apply for the additional money.

Louisiana's $4.2-billion will be added to federal allocations the state had already received to fully fund its more than $9-billion "Road Home" program for hurricane recovery.

"It was clear to me that Louisiana desperately needs this additional funding to implement its plans to bring its citizens back home," Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi said in a joint federal and state press release. Bernardi planned to announced the grants with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco in New Orleans.

"HUD will work very closely with Gov. Blanco and the Louisiana Recovery Authority to help pave the road home for thousands of residents desperate to rebuild their own lives," Bernardi said.

The "Road Home" program is intended to provide Louisiana residents up to $150,000 to rebuild or sell houses severely damaged by the storms, using grants to cover repair costs above what was covered by insurance and FEMA grants.

About 123,000 home owners and owners of about 80,000 apartments are eligible for the program, state officials have said.

About 90,000 have already signed up, officials said.

Blanco has said that the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversees the program, expects eligible homeowners to begin getting checks by late summer.

House passes bill to limit Internet gambling

WASHINGTON - The House voted Tuesday to forbid the use of credit cards to settle online bets, an effort to halt mushrooming interest in Internet gambling.

Opponents said it wouldn't work and decried exceptions for state-run lotteries and a horse racing industry that has powerful patrons in Congress

The vote was 317-93.

"The House has acted very strongly on this measure," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va, one of the bill's lead sponsors. "I think that should send a strong signal that we need for the Senate to act."

Senate leaders have not identified the bill as a top priority, but the bill's main champion in that chamber, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, said Tuesday that he planned to pursue it aggressively.

The legislation would clarify and update current law to spell out that most gambling is illegal online and would prohibit most payment forms from being used to settle online wagers.

The measure also would empower law enforcement authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites.

Senate approves plan to allow drugs from Canada

WASHINGTON - The Senate opened the way Tuesday to let Americans import prescription drugs into the United States from Canada, seeking to ease a regulatory ban on cheaper medicine crossing the border.

The proposal, which was approved 68-32, would create a Canadian loophole on a Food and Drug Administration ban on importing prescription medicine into the United States. It was offered as part of a $31.7-billion Homeland Security Department spending blueprint for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Both Florida senators, Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Bill Nelson, voted for the measure.

The department's Customs and Border Protection bureau began aggressively seizing Tamiflu, Viagra and other incoming prescription medications at borders in November. Prescription drugs are generally sold at cheaper prices in Canada.

[Last modified July 12, 2006, 06:08:45]

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