Wednesday, December 15, 2004

FEMA'S Catch 22

Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

-- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Reporter Derek Pivnick of the Pensacola News Journal covered last night's post-Ivan "Town Hall" meeting at Oriole Beach Elementary School in Gulf Breeze. Someone slapped the apt title Meeting Flooded With Queries on the article.

There were plenty of questions, to judge from Pivnick's piece, but darn few answers. According to Pivnick:
[T]here was no shortage of questions from the audience at the first of two planned town hall meetings to discuss issues related to Hurricane Ivan recovery.

About 100 people jammed into the music room Tuesday night at Oriole Beach Elementary School to ask county, state and federal officials in attendance about applying for financial assistance, dealing with insurance claims and rebuilding tattered homes.

* * *
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration, National Flood Insurance Program, Florida Department of Financial Services and Santa Rosa County attended the meeting.
Pivnick more or less relies on Santa Rosa Shores resident Armando Sarasua as his tentmate 'Orr' to voice the now-familiar complaints.
Sarasua expressed frustration with his insurance adjusters. He's had a problem getting a fair damage estimate for the flood damage, and he hasn't heard from the adjuster in two weeks. Sarasua has heard even less from his wind-storm insurance adjuster.

"It's getting to the end of the line. I need to know what these guys are going to do, so I know what to ask FEMA for," he said.
One answer Pivnick heard was that the deadline for applying to FEMA for assistance is December 31 and the deadline to ask for a Small Business Administration loan is January 3. Yet, "call volume...remains high" FEMA public information officer Jeni Goevelinger told Pivnick.

Get it? Two different Government deadlines falling right in the middle of the holiday season, and many hurricane victims still waiting on word from their insurance companies before they register with FEMA.

"That's kind of the confusing part, unfortunately," Pivnick quotes SBA loan officer John Bates as saying. "There's money there for everybody. I want to encourage everybody to apply and not disqualify themselves."

To be sure, the agencies are accepting "registrations" and "applications" for assistance even if you have insurance. But many ordinary folk -- applying common sense and what they've been taught by politicians over the years -- know that Government won't help unless they've exhausted their own resources first. And many won't know what those 'resources" are until the Government deadlines have passed.

Anyway, how can a hurricane victim judge the amount of help to ask for until he knows how much of his losses will be covered by insurance? As Sarasua told Pivnick, "I need to know what these guys are going to do, so I know what to ask FEMA for."

Meanwhile, insurance companies like Citizens keep making seductive promises that all insurance claims will be resolved by the end of the year. By the time it sinks in that Citizens can't make good on its promise to resolve all claims by the end of the year, it will be too late for many.

It's time for FEMA and SBA to extend their deadlines. Without an extension, it's a perfect Catch-22: As Yossarian might put it, "You'd be crazy to apply for assistance and crazy if you don't."


Ashok said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ashok said...

Check out my post on Catch-22.