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Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - Investigation of FEMA Aid; Fraud Allegations

On May 18, 2005, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "FEMA’s Response to the 2004 Florida Hurricanes: A Disaster for Taxpayers?"

The hearing focused on a 32 million dollar aid giveaway to victims that lived in areas that did not sustain hurricane force winds in Florida's Miami-Dade County.

Committee Chair Susan Collins, R-Maine, called it "alarming" that inspectors allegedly doled out $9 million in rental assistance to 5,000 people who never had to leave their homes.

The Homeland Security Acting Inspector General Rick Skinner, a long time FEMA employee, reported widespread fraud and abuse was found.

"The problems we found were across the board. ... in each and every one of the programs," [Inspector General] Skinner said.

"Our error rate after disasters typically runs around 50 percent," said Dan Craig, chief of FEMA 's recovery division. UPI May 18

Senator Nelson, D-Florida, had requested the hearing after the Sun-Sentinel had run several articles detailing how FEMA's aid adjusters paid claims in areas that were virtually unscathed by the storms. FEMA had simultaneously denied aid to victims of other areas devastated by storms. Victims of prior disasters, including Hurricane Isabel and the California wildfires, also have long complained of being wrongfully denied FEMA aid for their legitimate losses. As a result, many people have been unable to rebuild their homes and lives.

FEMA defended its position in the Miami-Dade giveaway by displaying a NOAA map indicating there were in fact hurricane force winds.  The following day a NOAA spokesperson said "We didn't make this map. It looks like some of the [NOAA's] data might have been misrepresented in it." 

During a January news conference, the Federal Emergency Management Agency insisted there was damage in Miami-Dade County.

"We know this for several reasons," said Dan Craig, FEMA's director of recovery programs. "Foremost among them is that FEMA's contract inspectors personally inspect and verify the claims. … Our contract inspectors are our first line of accountability."

However, documents surfaced that showed many of FEMA's contractors had prior criminal records, including felonies. The Sun-Sentinel reported that it "found 30 inspectors or managers with criminal records out of 133 it was able to identify through confidential sources, news clips, FEMA applicants and the Internet. A case against another inspector, charged in Mississippi with the attempted rape of a Hurricane Ivan victim, is still pending."

FEMAinfo.us has received whistleblower documents that connect these issues to other, more substantive, problems within FEMA and its programs.

Click here for Sun-Sentinel article re: aid adjusters with criminal records.

Click here for Sun-Sentinel FEMA fraud series.

Click here for written and video Senate hearing testimony.





Last Modified: 0600305 114001

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