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Thread: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

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    FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    The residents of Belle Harbor Manor spent four miserable months in emergency shelters after Superstorm Sandy's floodwaters surged through their assisted-living center on New York City's Rockaway peninsula.

    Now, the home's disabled, elderly and mostly poor residents have a new headache: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked at least a dozen of them to pay back thousands of dollars in disaster aid.

    Robert Rosenberg, 61, was among the Belle Harbor Manor residents who recently got notices from FEMA informing them that they had retroactively been declared ineligible for aid checks they received two years ago in the storm's immediate aftermath. The problem, the letters said, was that the money was supposed to have been spent on temporary housing, but that never happened because the residents were moved from one state-funded shelter to another.

    FEMA gave Rosenberg until Nov. 15 to send a refund check for $2,486 or file an appeal.

    ... The demand letters are part of a broader FEMA effort to recover millions of dollars in aid payments that went to ineligible households, either because of errors, a misunderstanding of the rules or outright fraud.

    The Associated Press reported in September that FEMA was scrutinizing 4,500 households it suspected had received improper payments. At that time, 850 had been asked to return a collective $5.8 million. The other cases were still under review.
    FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy | Fox News

    What a lovely way to treat your citizens, isn’t it? Let’s ask for money from those who haven’t had them from the very beginning. Let them feel their state is their enemy.
    And the most disgusting thing about this story is that it is not the first case when officials treat people who suffered from natural disasters in this way. Remember Katrina? $2 billion of the subsidies for the victims was stolen.

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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    File for appeal.
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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    What could possibly go wrong with advancing public funds to individuals and later deciding to investigate whether they were spent correctly?
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    Quote Originally Posted by Tameamea View Post
    FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy | Fox News

    What a lovely way to treat your citizens, isn’t it? Let’s ask for money from those who haven’t had them from the very beginning. Let them feel their state is their enemy.
    And the most disgusting thing about this story is that it is not the first case when officials treat people who suffered from natural disasters in this way. Remember Katrina? $2 billion of the subsidies for the victims was stolen.

    Maybe FEMA should have done it right in the first place.

    In the case with the man in the article, FEMA sent him money so he could get temporary housing, but he was provided temporary housing by them anyway and instead spent the money appropriated for housing on food and clothing? Is that what I read?
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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    One of the many, many problems with bureaucracy. On the one hand, you need strict regulations and policies to run any organization of a scale like this, because letting thousands of people handle things with too much discretion yields wildly varying, inconsistent, and chaotic results. On the other hand, strict regulations and policies eventually end up creating stupid things like this because you end up applying rules to a situation they weren't really designed for.

    Somewhere in a book is a FEMA rule saying that if disaster funds are spent on something they weren't meant to be spent on, FEMA should try to recollect them. It's a rule that sounds reasonable when you consider the situation they probably had in mind: some guy collecting a disaster relief check and spending it on a sports car instead of rebuilding his house. And now some low-level paper pusher has run afoul of this rule which is ordering him to try to recollect money from an old man because he bought food instead of housing. Said paper pusher doesn't really have the discretion to ignore the rule. Four or five rungs up the ladder you find someone with the authority to waive such a penalty, but that person generally doesn't handle individual cases, they're middle management. So paper pusher does his job, media finds out this is a stupid thing to do, and then the middle manager gets wind of it and will (hopefully) "clarify" the situation.

    But only if people raise a stink. So raise a stink!

    edit 2: Now, this isn't to be disparaging of low-level paper pushers. These people are heroes, they do a job that nobody in the right mind would want to do, because somebody has to do it to make the world keep turning. They're humans too, and they're well-aware that trying to take money from an old man who bought food instead of a hotel room is a crappy thing to do. But they have to do their job. They probably even mentioned this to their supervisor. "Hey, do we really need to try to collect money in this case? They still spent the money on disaster-related things, like replacing clothes and buying food!"

    But supervisors? Supervisors aren't people.

    Supervisors are that guy from Office Space. The rule says collect money. Collect money.
    Last edited by Deuce; 11-10-14 at 03:39 PM.
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    We’ll say what? Something like “nothing happened” ... Yeah, we might say something like that.

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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    As many of you know, I work in the disaster recovery sector and deal with FEMA almost every day.

    FEMA has, what I call, a "culture of no."

    What do I mean by that? It's very similar to what is going on in the Veterans Administration and every other federal agency (with the possible exception of the DoD), in that instead of having a culture where the people within the organization focus on doing what the law requires and what the people they are entrusted to serve need, they work very hard to deny anything and everything they can - in the name of fiscal responsibility.

    On its face, this would seem to be good thing, especially to a fiscal conservative like me. However, the true problem is that the agency places the burden of knowledge on the American people. Whether that is a local government official trying to recover from a disaster or an individual trying to survive after loosing their belongings or even their home. Instead of having a culture of caring, these agencies (including FEMA) have a culture that creates an adversarial environment between the federal government and the American people. I also have a saying, that FEMA actually stands for "Fix Everything My Ass."

    As an example, something I have shared here before, during the November 2012 tornadoes that hit central Illinois, I was at the meeting with the local governments that were affected and FEMA to plan the recovery process. After everyone had spoken, except for me (I wouldn't speak until the FEMA people were out of the room so I could be blunt and honest without causing an argument with the feds), the FEMA spoken was asked to speak and his statement to the mayors, city administrators, school superintendents and volunteer agencies was - "My purpose here is solely to manage expectations." Of course, I knew what he meant, but no one else did. After he and the other FEMA officials left the meeting, I broke the truth to those in attendance as to what he really meant - to not expect anything from FEMA that the local officials were not willing and able to demand and fight for.

    When dealing with any federal agency, you will never get what you deserve... you will only get what you can negotiate, document and defend in the audit that always comes two years later.

    What is happening here is no different. These people may very well owe the government the money back, but... they should never had been given it in the first place (if that is correct) and although this particular grant program may have not been eligible for them to participate in, there are numerous other programs that they could have received the same if not more money and not been required to pay it back. In other words, FEMA didn't care to find them the correct help, they just handed out money in the least politically difficult and regulatory difficult way (because the other programs require the feds to actually get off their ass and work), with full knowledge that these people would be required to pay it back - after CNN and the other news crews were nowhere to be found and this could go unreported or under-reported and overlooked even if it was.

    This has been the culture of the federal government (FEMA, EPA and VA being examples in the news lately) that transcends political party. These people, the bureaucrats, know that they will have their jobs after the party in control of Congress and the White House changes - they don't care about who's in charge, because the truth is, given that you have to walk through hell's fire and brimstone to fire a federal employee, the bureaucrats are the ones in charge regardless of the political party in the majority. It bit Bush in the ass during Katrina, Carter during the Mariel Boatlift, GHW Bush during Andrew and every other President and Congress that has ever served.
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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    Quote Originally Posted by Deuce View Post
    One of the many, many problems with bureaucracy. On the one hand, you need strict regulations and policies to run any organization of a scale like this, because letting thousands of people handle things with too much discretion yields wildly varying, inconsistent, and chaotic results. On the other hand, strict regulations and policies eventually end up creating stupid things like this because you end up applying rules to a situation they weren't really designed for.
    It's called Arbitrary and Capricious.
    Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, don't blame someone else, or expect others to make a change, you should stop complaining and make a different choice. Remember, the circumstances of your birth don't determine the outcome of your life.

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    Re: FEMA asking disabled, elderly residents to repay aid from superstorm Sandy

    Quote Originally Posted by Luftwaffe View Post
    File for appeal.
    In FEMA, the appellate process has you appeal to FEMA - the same people that said no in the first place. There is no real appeal. That is one part of the law that I am working with the House Committee on Oversight to change. But, after two years, we haven't made much headway. Although, now that the same party is control of both houses, we may make some progress.

    And, before anyone makes what I said above about D's and R's, it wouldn't make a difference if the control was by D's or R's. It takes a House and a Senate that will work together to get this done. We have bi-partisan support to effect the changes. We just couldn't get the bill to the floor. Maybe we can now.
    Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, don't blame someone else, or expect others to make a change, you should stop complaining and make a different choice. Remember, the circumstances of your birth don't determine the outcome of your life.

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