Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What Happened in Florida?

Now that we've all heard the news and seen the editorials:

FEMA sent out thousands of letters to people on the Gulf Coast last week that say they must give back payments that it now deems to have been excessive -- and FEMA wants its money in 30 days.


Given FEMA's track record thus far, it's hard to believe that the agency will prove competent at figuring out who owes what. People who spent weeks trying to deal with FEMA on the phone after the storm may well be plunged back into that hell as they dispute these bills

I'm curious about whether anything similar happened in Florida after the 2004 hurricane season. I remember hearing stories about people in Miami receiving FEMA checks after a hurricane that hit Tampa. There was even speculation that administration was using FEMA to buy the election. Does anybody from Fla. know whether there were ever any follow up audits? Since repayment letters have also gone to Texas and Mississippi, it's probably a variation on the squeaky wheel phenomenon rather than a red state/blue state thing, but I am curious.

On a related note, something caught my eye in an article about FEMA reorganization a couple of weeks ago:

Defenders of the existing system say FEMA functioned well under the Department of Homeland Security during the barrage of hurricanes in Florida in 2004.

"That's the exception to the rule," Davis said. "2004 was an election year in a key (electoral) state. Plus the governor has a personal relationship with the president."

That sounds like a myth taking hold to me. I have no first hand knowledge, but I don't recall FEMA being praised for its preparedness and immediate response. I thought that FEMA won people over with its willingness to write checks after the fact. Again I have no first hand knowledge, but the perception (or misperception) could effect not only FEMA reorganization, but perceptions of Louisiana as well.

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