FEMA fails to reimburse Oregon for disaster relief

FematrailersThe Oregonian's Michelle Cole reports that after a year of bureacratic delay, FEMA has yet to repay Oregon taxpayers for Katrina-related expenses:

Oregon is still waiting to be reimbursed the $2.7 million it spent last year to dispatch more than 1,100 Oregon National Guard troops to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We need the money," said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell of the Oregon Guard. "Hopefully, there will be some action soon."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has promised to pay numerous times. Caldwell said a FEMA official e-mailed him as recently as Oct. 28, vowing that Oregon would be paid in full.

But FEMA contacted the Oregon Guard on Monday, asking for another form.

"This has gotten to be ridiculous," Caldwell said. "We are being asked to do the same thing over and over."

Read the rest here.

Also, The New York Times has an excellent piece on some of the bungled bureaucratic expenditures FEMA has made, including:

* $7.9 million spent to renovate the former Fort McClellan Army base in Anniston, Ala., included fixing up a welcome center, clinic and gymnasium, scrubbing away mold and installing a protective fence between the site and a nearby firing range. But when the doors finally opened, only about 10 people showed up each night, leading FEMA to shut down the shelter within one month.

* Mobile homes, costing $34,500 each, purchased to provide temporary housing to hurricane victims. Nearly half, or about 10,000, of the $860 million worth of units now sit at an airfield in Arkansas, where FEMA is paying $250,000 a month to store them. (See top right photo)

* One individual received 26 federal disaster relief payments totaling $139,000, using 13 Social Security numbers, all based on claims of damages for bogus addresses.


  • PID (unverified)

    I don't understand why FEMA is allowed to remain this incompetent. The government's ability to respond to disasters should be considered a national security priority; the message we are sending to terrorists now is "If you attack us, we will respond so incompetently that your attacks will have maximum effect."

    Billions of dollars spent in Iraq, and the Bush Administration is unwilling to repay $2.7 to Oregon so that our National Guard doesn't face a financial crisis. Pathetic.

  • Hank Harper (unverified)

    The problem really runs much deeper than just the $2.7 mil in past due debt to Oregon. When disaster strikes, troops need to be deployed immediately to help out on the ground. But the footdragging and delay by FEMA sends a terrible message to the states for future events: if you send troops, prompt reimbursement is not guaranteed.

    This is a self-inflicted wound to future emergency response, and there's no excuse for it.

  • (Show?)

    Having dealt with FEMA numerous times while living in Texas, I can tell you they weren't always this incompetent.

    James Lee Witt was great as the head of FEMA. He turned FEMA around in the time he was there.

    As both a resident of the Texas Gulf Coast, and as staff for a member of Congress, I had interaction with FEMA. They were right there when Tropical Storm Frances hit the Galveston-Beaumont area hard. It was an unusual storm, and to this day some believe it was actually two storms in one-- a TS that hit down towards Corpus Christi and a hurricane that hit the Galveston area. As someone who was driving down the seawall just moments before the storm made "landfall," it was nothing like any TS I'd ever seen and much more like a hurricane. Especially when it was supposedly not a direct hit.

    The beaches were torn up, some disappearing and the waters now lapping under people's homes. Roads were washed out. Homes were destroyed.

    FEMA was right there taking care of things. They were in constant contact with the people there. Things were taken care of in an organized manner.

    That FEMA no longer exists.

  • Hank Harper (unverified)


    I agree with 100% about FEMA under James Lee Witt. His tenure there saved lives and helped turn around a long neglected agency. It makes the current situation that much more frustrating.

  • (Show?)

    I agree with all the criticisms of FEMA inherent here, except for this one: I think it's perfectly appropriate for FEMA to have 5000 trailers sitting in storage - awaiting the next disaster.

    That way, they won't be quite so damn slow to deliver housing to people next time.

    And presumably, they'll provide those trailers to folks - who will use them for some 6 to 12 months, and then return them to FEMA... who will then put them back in storage.

  • Hank Harper (unverified)

    The Times piece makes clear that FEMA was not intending to have excess trailers for future disasters, but for Katrina response. But while many displaced Katrina still needed shelter, thousands of trailers just sat empty on a runway in Hope, Arkansas.

    Among many other distribution problems, there are now questions about the trailers themselves (and future use). Read about potentially unsafe levels of toxins in the trailers here and here. But assuming that the trailers are proven 100% safe, there's still the less-than-stellar track record of FEMA just simply getting displaced residents into temporary shelter. That's the central failure here.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Maybe Or. Nat'l Gaurd could get paid in trailer homes, we could stack them somewhere along the Willamette and sell them as condos?

  • Former Salem Staffer (unverified)

    I think the response to Katrina demonstrated that FEMA should never have been absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security. That agency has now become another cash cow for cronies, and hasn't really delivered much in the way of securing the homeland. It's just given us further incompetence from our federal government, which we really didn't need.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    There is all of that ... what everyone else said. Then, by nonperformance, it is just as arguable that it is all a fraud. There never was intention to relieve victims, and that disintention was carried though with. There is no evidence to refute this hypothesis.

    I don't see the obligation to accept federal 'funding' anyway. They keep their funds, we keep our Oregon Guards. When the military moguls need funding, let them hold a bake sale.

    See how many show up to contribute ....

    Caldwell's Guard got taken. Salem does not need to bail them out.

  • Gabe (unverified)

    The next time we are asked to send troops, why don't we simply ask for payment in advance ??

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