Skip to comments.Millions of dollars given to those fleeing RitaFEMA didn't require receipts or proof of damage
Posted on 09/25/2006 5:46:36 PM PDT by Orange1998
Millions of dollars given to those fleeing RitaFEMA didn't require receipts or proof of damage
By Ted Oberg
(9/25/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - It could've been the most profitable toll-free phone call you ever made. During the Hurricane Rita evacuation last year, thousands of Houstonians stopped on their way out of town to call FEMA and collect thousands. If you didn't get free FEMA money, your neighbor may have. Thousands of dollars were just a phone call away.
Last year, with Hurricane Rita spinning in the Gulf of Mexico and criticism of FEMA spinning out of control, the agency was willing to help thousands of people in Harris County before they even had storm damage.
"I will show you how to get free money, free money, free money," says Matthew Lesko in his infomercials.
Lesko made a career convincing people the government gives away free cash. Who believes that?
The government really does give away free money. Or at least they did and we found nearly $27 million worth of it right here in Harris County. A lot of people will look at this as free money they missed out on.
"We saw it as a compassionate way to get money to disaster victims who desperately needed it," said Don Jacks with FEMA.
It's called expedited assistance. And so long as you lived in an evacuated county and actually evacuated, you qualified for an immediate $2,000.
We asked how much damage people had to prove to qualify for expedited assistance.
"Initially, no damage," said Jacks.
And how many receipts did they have to show?
"No receipts," said Jacks.
Did they need to prove they were a victim of the storm? "You had to say you lived in Harris County," he answered.
According to an Eyewitness News analysis of FEMA data organized by zip code, 13,413 people got the checks in Harris County alone.
We're not discounting the fact that thousands of people evacuated and some really needed the money. Mayor Bill White and Judge Robert Eckels did tell people to leave, but only people in the evacuation zones -- mostly coastal communities. FEMA didn't care.
"FEMA doesn't divvy up a county," said Jacks.
Ten families in West University's zip code got it. Fifteen people in downtown Houston got it. Three families on the northwest edge of Harris County, where it barely rained, got the money. More than 13,000 families in virtually every area of Harris County received FEMA's expedited assistance.
FEMA can't tell us exactly who got the money, but did say my family would've been eligible. I stayed in Houston to work during Rita. My wife and our daughter flew to Miami to be with her parents. Even though the airplane tickets were just $600, they would've given us the full amount.
"She could've given us a bank account number, a routing number, and we would've overnighted her $2000," said Jacks.
No receipts needed, no questions asked. We didn't know about it and didn't do it.
Next time we all line up to leave, FEMA won't be so generous. The program has now been reduced to just $500. And you can't apply retroactively.
"That program ended months and months ago," said Jacks.
FEMA is going after obvious cases of fraud, but admits most people qualified for this program.
Earlier this year the federal government investigated the Expedited Assistance Program. The investigation found it left the government open to significant fraud and abuse. If you want to see how your neighborhood stacks up, you can find a map showing how many people got the $2,000, arranged by zip code.
"It's called expedited assistance. And so long as you lived in an evacuated county and actually evacuated, you qualified for an immediate $2,000."
You can believe this crap or me, a fellow Freeper that went through Katrina. An in depth application had to be filed with FEMA documenting that you had property destroyed to a point that it was uninhabitable, and this $2000.00 was to help you find temporary housing until you either got your Insurance settlement and rebuilt, or until your application for a FEMA Trailer was investigated and approved.
I know plenty of people that applied for this and were turned down for several reasons. None actually deserved the $2000.00, but that does not stop them from being miffed that "they" didn't get their two thousand bucks!
My 83 year-old Mother lived with us for 10 months, while we built her a new home. She qualifed, but this Freeper turned it down so that someone that didn't have family caring for them could get help where it was REALLY needed.
I would guess you are not a minority.
"I would guess you are not a minority."
Yes I am... I am a White, Male, Christian, Conservative! We ain't got no rights a'tall! ;-)
That explains why government handouts to you are hard to come by....
This money grab was for Rita not Katrina. Katrina landfall was on August 29 and made FEMA look unresponsive so on Rita landfall September 24 they open the checkbooks.
Why wasn't I informed of this? I'm sure it's too late now, but I suffered through over 32 hours without electricity and that $2K would have certainly made me feel a lot better about it.