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Conflicting information about Disaster Assistance eligibility and benefits

Why do applicants receive conflicting information?


FEMA relies upon a number of private contractors to handle phone calls process requests for payment and inspect losses. Since 2003 many of FEMA’s contractors have made headlines for a host of problems, including waste, fraud and abuse. In many cases the contractors have little knowledge and in some cases insufficient credentials or work experience for the jobs they are doing. In many cases the people that you will come in contact with in the disaster process have never worked a disaster prior to the one you that you have experienced.

When FEMA suspects problems in its programs they have been known to request audits. In recent years, however, when those audits ultimately revealed problems, FEMA has attempted to cover them up rather than fix them, often with cataclysmic results.


There is very little accountability for problems that are identified within FEMA other than with Congress. Congress has oversight capabilities, however, it takes a concerted effort on the part of many legislators to effect a programmatic change. Survivors of previous storms have written thousand of letters to Congress, resulting in thousands of Congressional complaints, according to FEMA officials.

Survivors generally have very limited leverage

Even if a person applying for Disaster Assistance knows they are receiving incorrect information, there is very little they can do about it at that point in time. In most cases they are speaking with a telephone representative who is often a private contractor answering a FEMA telephone number. Applicants, media accounts and contractors report that many times there is no one to escalate the telephone call to because the call centers are often understaffed and overwhelmed.

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Last Modified: 100605 1829

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