Monday, September 12, 2005

History Lesson

Jon Perr compares FEMA's response during the 2o04 "election year" hurricanes in Florida with the "off-year" response to Hurricane Katrina. This inspires Digby's Hullabaloo to wonder if the White House can't fire 'Brownie' because "he knows too much."

Could be, although Michael Brown's FEMA agency screwed up in Florida, too. As U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) pointed out last February during Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff's confirmation debate:
I hear on a daily basis from communities across our State that are having problems getting reimbursed for debris removal. Some of these counties and cities have even had to borrow money to go out and pay their bills while they are waiting for FEMA reimbursement.

I will give you an example. Lake County, to the northwest of Orlando, submitted a $17 million bill for reimbursement months ago. Do you know how much they have received thus far? Three thousand dollars. There is no excuse for that.
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Santa Rosa County reports they submitted a request for $27 million in October. They have seen no reimbursement, and they are receiving mixed signals from FEMA as to what further information they may have to submit in order to get their application finally processed.

I will give you another example: Charlotte County. Charlotte County is down on the southwest coast of Florida. ... Charley hit with full force, with winds of 145 miles an hour, right off the water. ... The county officials have stated that one day a FEMA official will declare some piles of debris eligible for reimbursement and the next day a different inspector will look at it and declare it is ineligible for reimbursement. This has to stop.

I will give you another example. Escambia County has received some relief but Pensacola, which is the main city in Escambia County, has not. This is not how FEMA should be deciding to distribute our tax dollars.

Then there is the other major issue of the distribution of FEMA dollars to those counties that did not have hurricane force winds. FEMA paid out $29 million -- and just last week FEMA Director Brown defended it -- to Miami-Dade County, where the highest winds were 54 miles an hour. Hurricane velocity winds do not start until you get to 74 miles an hour.

There is very little evidence the Bush administration has ever competently managed FEMA anywhere, Florida included. But there is a lesson here, if only we can learn from history.

It's not enough to make sure that hurricanes hit us only during presidential election years. Equally important, we need to collect all the FEMA benefits before Election Day.

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