Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco traveled to Capitol Hill yesterday to ask federal lawmakers to provide the additional $3 billion to $4 billion needed to fully fund the states' Road Home program, which assists residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Traveling with the governor were New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, city recovery director Ed Blakely, Louisiana Recovery Authority Chair Dr. Norman C. Francis, LRA Board Member David Voelker, and LRA Executive Director Andy Kopplin. The group will continue meeting today with members of Congress to make the case for additional funds.

"The Road Home is the largest housing program ever launched in response to a major disaster, and the size and scope of its need has simply surpassed early federal estimates," Blanco said in a statement. "The program is projected to serve nearly 50,000 more homeowners than originally anticipated by FEMA, and is on track to run out of funding in January, less than 100 days from today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their colleagues have been generous in their commitment to fund this program. Now we urge all Members of Congress to help finish the job."

According to the latest published statistics, the program has received more than 184,000 applications, and more than 60,000 homeowners have received awards totaling over $3.75 billion. At the current rate of pay-outs and the current average award per grant of about $66,000 per homeowner, the Road Home program is projected to run out of money by year's end, according to Blanco.

Louisiana has asked Congress for $3.3 billion in additional funding and for a legislative directive to FEMA that will allow the state to utilize $1.17 billion of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds that have been allocated but tangled in red tape for more than a year. At the same time, the Louisiana legislature has also committed $1 billion to fill the gap.

According to an analysis by ICF International, the Virginia-based contractor running the program (which itself has come under fire for its performance), three main factors have contributed to the deficit:

* An increase in eligible homeowners. About 50,000 additional homeowners with major or severe damage are expected to be found eligible, far more than FEMA initially thought.

* Actual damages are higher than FEMA estimated. The level of damage per house and construction costs have been significantly greater than anticipated.

* Lower than expected insurance payments to homeowners. On average, insurance payments are covering a smaller portion of damages than initially expected.