September 14, 2005
Congress approved a second Hurricane
Katrina emergency spending package and President Bush Sept.
8 waived Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage rules on all federal
construction in the hurricane region.
Federal procurement laws allow the president to suspend the
prevailing wage law during a national emergency.
Davis-Bacon rules will be suspended on all contracts signed
beginning Sept. 8, and until otherwise determined, in six
Alabama counties, three Florida counties, 55 Louisiana parishes
and 81 counties in Mississippi.
Calling the property damage from Katrina "unprecedented,"
the president said Davis-Bacon "increase the cost to
the federal government of providing federal assistance to
these areas." Suspension of the law "will result
in greater assistance to these devastated communities and
will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals,"
he said in a formal proclamation.
The non-union Associated Builders and Contractors applauded
the White House action, saying it would open the door to entry-level
helpers in the rebuilding effort. Small contractors who normally
do not compete for federal work can now participate in the
rebuilding effort, said an ABC official.
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the president's
waiver, calling the White House action "unbelievable
and outrageous." Taking advantage "of a national
tragedy to get rid of a protection for workers the corporate
backers of the White House have long wanted to remove is nothing
less than profiteering. Congress must reverse this short-sighted
action," Sweeney said. The federation's Building and
Construction Trades Dept. did not issue a formal comment,
but some construction unions privately expressed their disappointment.
The second emergency spending bill, approved Thursday in
the House and later in the Senate, sends about $50 billion
to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief
Fund. The money will be spent for debris removal, temporary
housing, property damage assessment, payments to hurricane
victims, unemployment insurance, food, water, medicine and
search and rescue operations.
The Dept. of Defense will receive $1.4 billion for emergency
repairs, evacuation costs and other relief efforts. Another
$400 million is earmarked for the Army Corps of Engineers
to repair damaged infrastructure.
With the approval of the new spending, requested by President
Bush, the rising federal costs of Katrina are coming into
clearer focus. The new funding follows an initial installment
of $10.5 billion that Congress rapidly approved and Bush signed
into law on Sept. 2.
And the new funding won't be the end of the federal spending
on the post-hurricane effort, said Office of Management and
Budget Director Joshua Bolten. He told reporters, "My
expectation is that we will, in fact, need substantially more
than the $51.8 billion" that the President requested.
"...But this at least puts everybody on very solid footing
to perform their tasks in the several weeks ahead." Bolten
declined to say how much hurricane relief money the Bush administration
would seek beyond what it had already requested from Congress.