Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency

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Makes me think of the Wizard of Oz a little.  Only Dorothy didn’t have a storm warning, she wasn’t told to get out, and no agency offered her emergency grant money to make her journey to Oz and to buy apples along the way.  But wait.  Dorothy was only dreaming, after all.

If only I could click my heels three times and have it all be a dream.

It’s not a dream at all.  It’s not even a fairy tale.  It’s a real nightmare.

Even so, I would obediently rob Peter to pay Paul if we really do owe FEMA this money.

Meanwhile, I sit and wait for the documentation in order to enter into the Appeals and Waiver process, which remember, has to be done in under 60 days.   I sit and worry and wonder how many other people who can’t even rob Peter to pay Paul are going to pay back $2000 that the government willingly gave them in their time of need.

Heck, we never would have gone begging for that money, but every news broadcaster around was urging people to take the money.  Take the money.  TAKE THE MONEY.

Did we spend it willy-nilly?  No.  Were we able to come right back home after Katrina and Rita?  No.  For Rita, we were displaced to another city for six weeks.  I’m not complaining, just stating the facts, so please don’t be like my friend who said to me back then, “Well, I don’t think the government should be helping ANYONE who lives down the bayou.  Y’all choose to stay there, and that’s all there is to it.  If y’all want to stay down there where it floods, then do it on your OWN dime.  NOT MINE.”

Uh, no.  We’re not friends any more.

Sure, I have more flexibility than most of the bayou folks; but if some of us don’t stay here and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, then what will they do?  I just can’t walk away and write off their whole value, culture and way of life.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This is about a government agency that offered a helping hand to millions of people who evacuated—some legitimately and some fraudulently.  While they are coming after me for legitimate funds, are they also going after all those who took millions of dollars fraudulently?  I wonder.

And by the way, in case it hasn’t occurred to you yet, YOUR (and my) tax dollars are now paying FEMA to review all these 2005 cases, write and mail out all these letters, and then do all the follow-up necessary to collect the money.  And if we don’t pay within 60 days, then the debt will be sent to a collection agency, which our tax dollars will also pay for.

So consider for a moment if FEMA had done their job right in the first place, they would not be back-tracking and spending billions of dollars trying to recoup all this money.  And let’s go ahead and wonder just how much they are hoping to recover?  Will it even be enough to cover the expenses of collecting said over payments?

My American Countrymen and Women, this would be ludicrous if it wasn’t so egregious.  Of course, there are lots of other under-used and aptly descriptive words that could be applied to the way this federal emergency agency mismanaged its distribution of emergency grant funds to people who really just wanted to be back home anyway, no matter how bad the conditions.

What prompted me to share this with you was the viewing of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” yesterday afternoon with a good friend.  No matter how bad it was living in the town of Bathtub below the river levee system, those poor folks just wanted to stay home, be left alone to live their lives the best way they knew how.  Some folks, as shown in the story, would rather be home dealing with flood waters, than jammed into a shelter like sardines.  Even little six-year-old Hush Puppy, (played by a local Houma girl), knew what it felt like to be forcibly removed from her home before a storm and the value of standing her ground and returning home.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Official Trailer (2012) [HD]

If you dare to go see the film, maybe it’s showing near you soon.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you might want to bring the tissues.

We evacuees really appreciate the help all you tax payers and the federal government offered us in a dire time of need and uncertainty. We don’t appreciate them asking for the money back–especially since we have endured and passed through two more sets of storms since 2005, two more tropical storms, and the country’s largest oil spill ever.  Wait a minute.  I wonder if three years from now, they are going to be asking folks to give them back the grant money they gave them for the Hurricanes Gustave and Ike that happened in 2008?

Only the Wizard of Oz knows the answer to that.  I’m off to follow the yellow brick road to find out.

BW

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Comments

Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency — 50 Comments

  1. It does not surprise me that FEMA is asking for refunds. I also got FEMA money at the insistence of everyone at the time. I remember worrying for a few years afterwards they were going to come and take it back so I kept it in my savings. After all these years, I can’t believe they are asking for the money back.

      • Maybe they can’t find me! 🙂 In my case, a FEMA person came to my house, looked at all the damage and asked a bunch of questions, filled out the paper work and then I got a check in the mail. It was all approved by their workers. I remember even getting money for having to buy a chain saw. They gave me more than what I paid for it. I also remember food stamps were pretty much forced on everyone where I lived too.

        • The same scenario here also. After the water receded, they came, they measured, the took pics of flood damage, all the same as you, and all those documents were in the packet marked “approved” for payment. Go figure!

  2. What else can you expect from a Government that has spent so much money in the last 4 years. They’re trying to re-coup something.

    • I was really expecting much more of a reaction–especially from YOU, lol! I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around how much it’s costing to go back over all those recipient files, write letters, and collect repayments. It really is just mind boggling!

      • I didn’t want to use your blog to REALLY express my feelings about our current political leaders and the things they do!

      • FEMA apparently doesn’t understand the terms o’ a GRANT (as in NOT a loan)…but then with literacy levels the way they are in Gov’t funded agencies, it’s a wonder they can read the phonebook.

        Perhaps that’s the scam – spend all that time “looking into it”, filing papers, harassing folk….I mean, they all get paid for all that extra work, their budget gets increased, /some/ folk might just blindly pay them back (nobody I know, but there are people who might be that foolish). At the end of it all they throw up their hands and declare it un-tenable, they “can’t collect”, and go away – with a validation of their overly huge budget for doing nothing in the grand scheme o’ things!

        If EVERYONE asks for those forms and EVERYONE refuses to pay…what will happen do ye think? Everyone should also write a letter to the local Senator (actually, everyone should PHONE – that way there’s no misunderstanding when their assistant reads to them).

  3. It really does boggle the mind. Our government agencies (and I don’t care who’s president) are a morass of ineptitude!

  4. “Any time you accept something from the government which involves that miraculous word “Free”, expect it to haunt you till the day you die” ~ My Dad

    Friends talked me into filing after Katrina with the government to recoup what was paid for a portable generator. Nice big JD 8KW, they brought in two 18 wheelers and parked them, distributing the generators which came with all the government paperwork to fill out to recoup the purchase price. Not only did it allow me to keep my sanity, it also saved 3 freezers and 2 refrigerators. It was the second week of a 5 ½ week run without electricity and I don’t do hot well. That my friends is the understatement of the year! That first week I developed both Rosacea, my face had a 10000 ant bites or so it seemed and shingles on my BUTT, never had either before. The generator was a God send.

    My Dad warned against the money, but really could give no reason other than the money was meant for the folks who really needed it. Sister filled out the paperwork sent it in. Within 2 weeks I get a check, I was impressed at the speed at which the government could work when it really wanted.

    I held the check.

    It set in the window (where I keep the bills and checks until they are deposited or paid, with the emphases on the latter) seems like a few months. Something in me just wouldn’t let me cash it. Finally I got a call from some government accounting dept, asking if I needed a new check cut and I told them where it was. I told ‘em I thought I would just tear it up feeling bad for my error in judgment. OMG! You would have thought I had threatened the Pres. LOL……..

    I ended up needing to fill out much more paperwork, have it witnessed, notarized, and return the check next day UPS with signature required.

    Wish I could give that check to you now.

    I am not implying that anyone got carried away with all the free money they were throwing around with supposedly no strings attached. I met all the requirements for the money (for much more also), but I also was not in need of the help. I remember people for months and months (including city, parish, state and federal law enforcement officials) being arrested for fraud/theft and thinking to myself what a greedy bunch of bastards trying to get ahead upon the woes of others.

    I think it’s a shame that people who need something, especially in the time of a natural emergency need to be questioned as to their need. I believe that the government will come around though; maybe we can use some of that BP money. Let BP show it as a tax write-off and everyone wins. I am sorry BW that the few who cheat cause those in need to be hassled too. It’s a sad state we live in and sadly getting worse.
    As to all those folks that talk about not saving New Orleans or the Delta or let the Atchafalaya flow, I heard an interesting reply from a canyon dweller in Colorado who watched his home burn up last month on TV. When asked if he’d rebuild he replied, “Of course, people in Louisiana come back after hurricanes, people in California rebuild after earth quakes, in the midwest they rebuild after tornados, I love living in the canyon, of course I will rebuild”. They say he should expect about 10 years before he’s burnt out again. It wasn’t a question of if; it was a question of when.

    Its not just Louisiana, its just Louisiana is our place.

    • Your dad and mine were cut from the same cloth. And as I said to Capt. Swallow, I wasn’t raised to take any government help. But sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. Now, I’m regretting it. I’m thinking it might be time to scale everything back to the bare necessities, let my dreams just remain dreams, and hopes go unfulfilled. Yes, admit defeat. It’s not my personality to be so glum, but I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

    • Foamheart- that reminds me of part of something Luther Standing Bear said “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: they promised to take our land and they took it”. Your Dad sounds like he has it pegged pretty good too!

  5. Duplication of benefits, my ass. It wasn’t a duplication of storms! Katrina and Rita were two separate storms. Assinine doesn’t even begin to describe what you’re going through. If the government extended a helping hand to the people in Colorado right now, what would they do? Cash the damn check – no matter how many they were given. Because the one thing people need in a catastrophic situation is the one thing they don’t have enough of: MONEY! I completely agree with Steffi. This is the act of an out of control government trying to rape taxpayers to cover their own egregious errors in overspending. But, I just wonder if the good people of Louisiana aren’t bearing the brunt of it because Governor Jindal isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to the ineptitude of the current presidential administration?

    • I’m wondering when this is going to hit the news, Steph? I can’t be the only one who has gotten the letter asking for money back, can I? Have you heard anything about this in your network of media connections?

  6. As I was reading this, I was wondering the same thing: “While they are coming after me for legitimate funds, are they also going after all those who took millions of dollars fraudulently?” I didn’t get any hurricane funds, but Social Security is on my case for an alleged “overpayment” that was totally their mistake, not mine and now they are hounding me relentlessly. It’s hard to believe sometimes that those federal agents are people from our communities who have somehow bought into the notion that it’s okay to place undue hardship on your neighbors.

    That movie looks amazing. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Importance of place in all these LA-based reality tv shows we’ve been talking about lately. They all depend so much on place. The Louisiana wilds almost becomes one of the characters in the show. It’s certainly a central player in your Bayou Woman show. Where else in this country do you see that happening? Makes me think there is truly something special about Louisiana, but again, it may just be the food that’s drawing all those production people here. Cajun cuisine has always relied on little beasts from the Southern wilds.

    • Excellent posting, Brenda! You have such a marvelous way with words. So, you think it’s all about the food, huh? Not the first time you’ve said that, either!! Well, the food certainly doesn’t drive people away, does it? Thanks for making me smile when the chips are down. I’ve gotten great support from y’all today, and it was much needed. Sense of place. It is very powerful. Thanks for reminding me—helps keep my webbed feet on the ground! BW

  7. If they sold off the thousands UNUSED FEMA trailers that sat in the farm fields in Mississippi for the last 5 years they could recoup plenty! Shame the folks that needed those never saw them…

  8. I’ve read this three times and I still can’t get my mind around it.

    I don’t think it’s over-spending at all. I think it’s punishment. Texas and Arizona have suffered at the hands of the Federal Goverment recently – last year, Obama refused to sign an order releasing funds for fire-fighting here in Texas, they’re suing Arizona, and they’ve just closed nine Border Patrol interior stations in four states including Texas and Arizona.

    This is thuggery, plain and simple. They’ve changed the rules in the middle of the game, and it you don’t play by their rules, you suffer the consequences.

    I’m sorry. I’m still in an extraordinarily bad mood after hearing our President say on Friday afternoon in Roanoke, VA, that “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Really. Just who was it out there, working on the docks all these years, grubbing for change to buy gas and living on rice and beans until I finally started turning a profit?

    The fact is the people of Louisiana are proud and independent, and there’s nothing Washington hates more.

    I’d be in touch with Jindal’s office so fast it would make your head spin.

  9. OK-doke. Here’s a very useful publication from the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services called A Self-Help Guide to the FEMA Debt Repayment Process.

    One of the first sentences is, “FEMA must seek repayment when it decides any of its financial aid was given by mistake, the money was spent inappropriately, or the money was obtained by fraud.”

    The key word in that sentence is DECIDE. FEMA made a decision to go after the money. I’d still contact Jindal’s office, but that’s just me. 😉

    • Shoot, Linda, wouldn’t even know who to talk to at the governor’s office! I’m sure some folks have called him, though. Thanks for the suggestions, but they messed up and I’m not paying!

      • The more I read through all this stuff last night, the more I think you have a case and probably won’t have to pay in the end. (My opinion only, of course.) Clearly, they were told to set up some more hoops for people to jump through. It’s a pain in the patootie, but there you are. 😉

    • I wonder if FEMA seeking repayment is like many other government agencies? They can seek for it all they want, if just a third of the people pay it back and never ask questions, yippee…more money to turn around and spend unwisely again. If the rest of the people either realize they do not owe the money and choose to fight it or just choose to do nothing then there really isn’t anything they can do to them anyway and they barked at them for no reason. Them seeking repayment because “any of the financial aid was given by mistake” means they can seek repayment from thousands even if they only gave it by mistake to one or two, or am I reading into something that isn’t there? I work for one of the big government programs so I’m used to reading between the lines…maybe this one is different?!?! (that was hard to type with a straight face, lol)

  10. And here’s an article published just today in the Huffington Post that really lays it out. FEMA’S a Mess .

    The article says a judge ordered them to stop the collection process in 2007, and now they’re back at it with “revised guidelines”. Uh-huh.

    • I so appreciate your research! I didn’t do any at all. Too dumbfounded, I guess. But when I called the first time, I asked the rep. why they waited seven years to ask for this money, and she mentioned something about a lawsuit that had been settled. They had sent me a letter in December and one in February asking for this money, but because they sent them to some errant address in Thibodaux, I never received them. They thought I was ignoring them. Humph. The first letters explained how a new act was passed that required FEMA to add an appeals and waiver process if we thought they had made a mistake, or if the money was spent as designated, or if paying it back would cause a financial hardship. I ask you, who has $3500 sitting around to just hand back to FEMA? That’s just CRAZY!

  11. Offer them 3% that what the IRS accepts .

    FEMA trailers? I know a story about getting paid millions to make about none.

  12. EPILOGUE: Well, wouldn’t you know that the documentation arrived the day I posted this story? And not just one big envelope jam packed full, but TWO. About 150 pages to be exact. It is a copy of my whole file for Hurricane Rita–not what I expected. I asked for “documentation showing exactly what duplication of benefits I received that added up to $3520.22”, the amount they were demanding I repay.

    Yesterday, after reading all your comments and a couple of very encouraging emails, I took the strength you offered me, pulled my head up off my desk, and went to battle. I looked over all 150 pages. And one very interesting thing I found was that they have been trying to collect this money from me since December 2011 after a lawsuit was settled and an Act was passed that changed the way FEMA can collect these so-called over payments. The Act required FEMA to add an appeals and waiver process. But I never received the two previous letters. Why? Because they sent them to an address in Thibodaux, LA where I have NEVER lived. I have no clue where they got that address from, either.

    After checking all documentation trying to find the aforementioned “duplication of benefits”, I found nothing that added up to $3520.22. I saw where they approved the $2000 emergency funds. Then five months later they sent us $3000 and change to “repair damaged house”. Okay, at the time, we had no flood insurance, and our home had never flooded before. But when I accepted that repair money, I had to agree to buy and maintain flood insurance from that point on. The policy premium was $2500 for $15,000 on the dwelling and $5,000 on contents. So, what do you think I used the money for? With what was left we repaired the wiring that got wet and wouldn’t work, and repaired the refrigerator. But we did not cut out walls or anything like that. Our home-owner’s policy didn’t pay for any damages nor did we have coverage that would pay us in case of displacement. So, where was the duplication of benefits?

    There was none, so how did FEMA arrive at this conclusion? They made yet another mistake, and I’m not paying them back anything. I got my thoughts together and wrote the Letter of Waiver, attached my 1040 for 2010 and 2011 to prove we make (way) less than $90,000 a year (their magic number, not mine), and jumped through all their other hoops.

    I am going to fax this to them this morning with a prayer that the person who sees this letter will approve it, and my case will be closed. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

    Thanks again for being here and helping me out! Y’all are the best!

  13. I know this is going a whole different direction than this post was meant to go, but when do I normally stay on track. You mentioned your friend told you that you should basically just move if you didn’t want to be flooded. I hear that all the time when I try to raise awareness to people about life on a reservation, particularly the Pine Ridge Reservation. Most people (those who have never been there) will always say “why don’t they just leave?”. Can you just pack up your things, if you have any, and walk away from your culture, your family, a way of life that goes back hundreds of years before their families settled there? If you can, good for you. I can’t. They can’t. Do we owe them a brand new house and cars and them to never have to work another day in their lives, no. But maybe we can be decent human beings and see they have a need and give them a hand up, not a hand out and show them that they are valuable, their traditions, their land and their children are valuable to our society. Ok, jumping off my soap box now. Good luck!

    • Okay, you made me cloud up and almost rain. Honey, you are preaching to the choir, but you know that already. What you say is so true, and maybe I’ve been guilty of having those thoughts about reservation life. But maybe my idea of reservation life is skewed by white man’s thinking??? Nothing but a very negative connotation. But for all people who are hard workers who just happen to hail from a less than perfect place, we should all be sensitive to their plight and to the fact that HOME is HOME, no matter where your way of life and culture stems from. Thanks, Tara, for your heart-felt words. BW (Now, go vote on the poll in the next post, please!)

      • I already did! That’s how I ended up here. My actual point was, doesn’t really matter where we are from, just picking up and moving because it’s easier, may be easy for some people. But for many people, it’s been a way of life for many, many generations and would be like moving to a foreign country. Could you find the type of food you are used to even here where I live? Can I get the kind of burial my tribe would provide me, there where you live? Now, I really am getting off the box. Lol

        • Ahoy @MrsCoach – excellent point – and on behalf o’ me ancestors, thank ye for raising awareness o’ the special hell that is Pine Ridge.

          When people say “Home is where the heart is” they don’t understand it’s tough to live there when the heart is broken.
          Both my wife and I have ancestors on several continents who are still being displaced and disrespected generations later.

          Pilamaya-yelo, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin…

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