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USA Today has a New Orleans update

The start of an article from USA Today:

NEW ORLEANS — The Church of All Souls began with a fresh coat of paint in a garage that survived Hurricane Katrina. Parishioners added the red, white and blue awning of an abandoned KFC, attaching it with metal salvaged from deserted homes nearby.

Such is the state of rebuilding here.

"Listen," says James Lemann, whose mother's garage became the sanctuary. Down the block, swinging metal groans in a slow breeze; otherwise, the street is silent. "It's a beautiful sunny afternoon," says Lemann, 48. "Do you hear saws? Do you hear any hammers?"

For month after month, it has sounded this way — here, in New Orleans' devastated Lower 9th Ward, and in other places hit hardest by Katrina. The U.S. government has spent more than $80 billion to help the region recover and rebuild. Yet in the nearly 16 months since the storm hit, these areas in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi remain silent shells, and the promise of rebuilding seems distant to those who once lived here.

Homeowners who want to return aren't getting much help. One $7.5 billion Louisiana program to help people rebuild or relocate has put money in the hands of just 87 of the 89,403 homeowners who applied. Along the Gulf Coast, almost 100,000 people still live in trailers and mobile homes issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the Lower 9th Ward, a mostly poor section of the city, flood waters severely damaged more than 1,300 buildings, more than in almost any other part of New Orleans, according to city records. Yet by early December, the city had issued only four permits for new homes to be built there, a USA TODAY analysis of permit records shows.

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