Monday, September 19, 2005

FEMA: A Legacy of Waste

From Sun-Sentinal:

The handling of aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina is only the latest in a series of missteps and fraud that has plagued this tax-funded government agency. The Sun-Sentinel took a look at 20 recent disasters and found mismanagement and misallocation abound.

THE FEMA INVESTIGATION This report is the latest in a series by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel examining the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance payments. The newspaper first revealed that FEMA paid $31 million in Miami-Dade County for Hurricane Frances, even though the Labor Day weekend storm made landfall 100 miles to the north. Subsequent reports detailed how FEMA inspectors receive little training; that the agency paid for funerals for deaths unrelated to the storm; and that some criminals were hired to inspect damage. The reports resulted in recommendations by a U.S. Senate committee and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for widespread changes in the way the agency administers its program. FEMA announced last month that it was making some alterations in the way it awards aid. The U.S. attorney in Miami has charged 16 Miami-Dade aid recipients with fraud. Fourteen have pleaded guilty and one was found not guilty after trial.

Agency paid out hundreds of millions to people who were untouched by disaster
The Sun-Sentinel reviewed 20 disasters nationwide and found a pattern of fraud and excessive payoutsThe federal government's mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe is only the latest bungling in a national disaster response system that for years has been fraught with waste and fraud.

Politicians at all levels are quick to push for federal assistance
Assistance designed to help those struck by disaster has also become a tool for politicians to bring home prized federal dollars and a windfall to residents in some of the nation's poorest communities.

After tornado, a rush to claim cash
A tornado destroyed two dozen homes in the Liberty City area of Miami-Dade County in March 2003 but barely caused enough damage to qualify for federal aid, emergency management records show.

Agency ignored most cries of fraud
In recent years, public officials sounded the alarm about fraud in federal disaster aid. They were largely ignored.

Agency poured funds into Detroit after storms
Detroit · A band of thunderstorms in 2000 flooded thousands of homes in the suburbs but caused no reported problems in the Motor City.

`Free money' went to thousands after wildfires
LOS ANGELES · Word of "free money" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency spread through neighborhoods here like the wildfires burning in the hills miles away in the fall of 2003.

Little damage but big dollars for Baton Rouge after Lili
Three years before Hurricane Katrina struck, another monster storm headed for Louisiana with winds up to 145 mph.

'There's got to be some serious fraud'
The summer of 2003 should have been a boom time for appliance repairs and sales. After all, residents of Cuyahoga County told the federal government that 28,112 washers and dryers were damaged in a July thunderstorm.

Disasters examined
The Sun-Sentinel analyzed 20 of the 313 disasters declared by FEMA from 1999 through 2004.

About this series
Reporters analyzed data obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on 1 million claims for 20 disasters from 1999 to 2004 and created maps showing the location and amounts paid.


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