Evacuees react to FEMA mistake - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Evacuees react to FEMA mistake

June 15, 2006

Albany - It's disheartening news for hurricane Katrina evacuees still living here in Albany. A government audit shows FEMA inadvertently handed out as much as 1.4 billion dollars in hurricane recovery money to scam artists. Thousands of people, including prison inmates, ripped off FEMA and used disaster money to buy everything from football tickets to a sex change operation.      

Hurricane evacuee Tarek Posey was shocked to find out FEMA stop paying his rent at the old Boyette Village in Albany, where dozens of hurricane evacuees moved in December.  

"They just sent me the papers saying I'm a little behind. I've got to get down to the bottom of that."

Posey understood FEMA was going to pay the rent for up to a year.

"When you think you've one got one problem, then there's another one, then another one, then another."

Now he's scrambling to get answers from FEMA and worried he'll have to move out. But he has no where to go. So news that FEMA gave criminals and scammers as much as $1.4-billion in hurricane assistance funds, without verifying their residency or need, makes him sick.

"Frustration, a little anger. What can I say. Here's people who don't really need it and here I am, I need it. I can't get it, and I'm going through so much hassle to get it."

Like most evacuees, Posey struggled to find a job. He worked in construction for a while. But now he has no steady paycheck coming in. He received just one $2,000 emergency check from FEMA after the storm, and the government paid his rent for four months. But he's dealt with endless paperwork and hassle for that help.  

"Look what they are sending me through: these changes, paperwork and formalities."

Yet without much work, many others profited off of one of the nation's worst disaster.  

"I think that's pretty messed up. I think that's pretty fouled up."  

The new FEMA director Donna Dannels said the agency made a decision to help as many as we could right after the storm. She says now FEMA will identify those people who were either paid in error or scammed the government and "deal with that."

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