Environmental Science 100
Warner Pacific College
June 21, 2011
When I think about FEMA, I think about what happened on August 5, 2005. When hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and the levee in New Orleans went tumbling down, it reminds me of how much we are at the mercy of the Lord and then our federal government agency to protect when a natural disaster occurs. People waited on relief efforts to aid them in their hours of need. As we, all seen on that devastating morning there was no relief efforts on the part of FEMA until it became a national media circus.
Nearly six years have passed since Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans in misery, but many residents have not forgiven the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its sluggish response to the storm. Now another delayed reaction by FEMA – a stop-and-start push to recoup millions of dollars in disaster aid – is reminding storm victims why they often cursed the agencies name (internet citing 1). As a new hurricane season begins Wednesday, FEMA is working to determine how much money it overpaid or mistakenly awarded to victims of the destructive 2005 hurricane season.
The agency is reviewing more than $600 million given to roughly 154,000 victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and is poised to demand that some return money (internet citing 1). FEMA's attempts to collect Katrina and Rita overpayments already have sputtered once. Residents who lost homes filed a class-action lawsuit in 2007 challenging the denial of their housing aid and the recoupment process. The lawsuit argued that FEMA's debt collection efforts were full of errors, based on vague standards and without hearings that would ensure fair treatment.
“Under our current leadership, strong protections have been put in place to greatly reduce the error rate of improper disaster payments," Racusen said in a statement. The agency said it has slashed its error rate involving disaster payments from 14.5 percent after Katrina to about 3 percent in 2009 (Internet citing 1). FEMA says it is bound by law to try to collect improper payments, but lawmakers have sponsored legislation that would authorize the agency to waive debts if they resulted from an error by FEMA. A Senate committee approved the bill Thursday. No vote by the full Senate has been scheduled. Diane Ridgley, 56, a plaintiff in the 2007 lawsuit, recalled getting a letter from FEMA demanding repayment of nearly $17,000, money she used to replace personal belongings and pay for rent after Katrina destroyed her New Orleans duplex. FEMA told her she should have been ineligible because she listed a family friend with whom she evacuated – but did not live – as a member of her household on her application (Internet citing 1).
Since FEMA has become part of the Department of Homeland Security, it has been a struggle. Funds have been raided, staff has been transferred into other DHS functions without being replaced, slowdowns because of added layers of bureaucracy for nearly all functions have dramatically increased, and there is the constant threat of reprogramming appropriated funds (Internet citing 2).
When it is all said and done, we will look back on this unjust and inhumane treatment of people and think as a nation what would God say and do. We will then begin to change and see that all of us are equal because we never know when such a terrible disaster could happen to us
Kunzel, M. & Foley, R. (2011). FEMA TO DEMAND THAT HURRICANE VICTIMS RETURN