This image provided by NOAA of the port at Gulfport Mississippi showing the destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Wednesday Aug. 31, 2005.
By Jeff Amy, The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. -- Eight years after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, Mississippi still hasn't spent almost $1 billion in federal money dedicated to recovery from the storm.
The remaining $872 million is part of $5.5 billion Congress gave the state to rebound from Katrina, which struck in August 2005, killed 238 people in Mississippi and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, most heavily in coastal counties.
More than half of the unspent money is tied up in a hotly debated plan to expand the state-owned Port of Gulfport, and millions more are allocated for projects that have yet to materialize.
Critics also complain that some projects are far from the Katrina strike zone and don't seem to have a direct connection to recovery from the hurricane, while others have failed to take root or are not meeting promises of creating jobs.
One of the projects — a parking garage in Starkville near the Mississippi State University football stadium — is more than 200 miles from Katrina's landfall.
Ashley Edwards, director of the state's Office of Recovery, said the pace of spending has been partly due to difficulty satisfying federal requirements. Some funding wasn't released to the state until recently, Edwards said, but state officials said they plan to complete most work within the next two years.