FEMA requests money back from disaster victims

Disaster Relief FundFEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, admits disaster payments to unqualified applicants were largely their own fault. As a consequence of employees who did not completely understand eligibility rules made accounting errors, thousands of people were paid disaster relief money between 2005 and 2009; now they’re getting a bill from FEMA, wanting their money back.

Victims of floods, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes that received help from FEMA as far back as 2005; may be getting a bill from FEMA. After discovering that there had been improper payments made, FEMA began looking into 160 thousand more cases for potential payment errors.

FEMA has sung this song before; in 2006 FEMA went after 51 thousand families for almost 100 million dollars. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA handed out over 6 billion dollars in aid to 1.7 million households. After an audit; fraudulent claims were indicated.  

 The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says one of the causes of the improper payments (at that time) was due to people using duplicate or false Social Security information. They are not saying that is the reason for this latest episode of improper payments.  

FEMA has said that the money range is from a few hundred dollars, to thousands of dollars that were given to families in need. Everyone deserved to get help; but not everyone qualifiedfor help. Since FEMA says it is responsible to account for the money, they will be sending bills to everyone who got aid, that shouldn’t have.

They will give the people options on making payments, and they may also appeal the decision or file for a hardship waiver to forgive the debt. Almost all the people who received the aid, say they used it; either to get another place to live, or rebuild, and buy food and personal items. No one has thousands of dollars lying around from five years ago.  

The Governor of Arkansas introduced a bill last month to allow FEMA to waive the debts of those people who owe them money. The Senate committee of Homeland Security will consider the bill in its meeting this Wednesday

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