FEMA Wants Disaster Victims to Return Aid

The agency is seeking to recoup $22 million it said was paid out erroneously. An additional $643 million is also under review.

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Hurricane Katrina survivors may have to pay back FEMA. (Google)

Teresa Mears of MSN is reporting that years after some U.S. residents rebuilt their lives with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government is asking for its money back. FEMA has told more than 5,650 victims of 129 disasters, ranging from floods to fires to tornadoes, that the $22 million in aid money they received was a mistake and they must repay the government.

An additional $643 million in "erroneous disaster" payments to about 160,000 households, much of that from hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005, is under review, which means that more taxpayers could be asked to return their federal aid.

"It just doesn't seem like FEMA is trying to help people get through this," Tony DePasquo told Bill Theobald of the Gannett Washington bureau. "They're making it worse." DePasquo and his wife, Anita, received $29,900 from FEMA last year after flooding destroyed their home in Nashville, Tenn.

Now FEMA wants $27,700 of that money back, saying that it duplicated money the couple received from their home-insurance company. The couple used the money to buy another home and are trying to figure out how they can pay FEMA back. Tony DePasquo is already working 84 hours a week at an Air Force base in Qatar so the family can pay off other flood-related debts.

FEMA representatives say that the payments were mostly the fault of the agency, but it has a duty to try to recoup taxpayers' funds. "We are committed to being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars," spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said. She said the agency had cut its error rate from 14.5 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to about 3 percent in 2009.

Recipients can appeal the decision, apply for a hardship waiver or ask for a payment plan.

Talk about an agency that should be disbanded! How do you improperly give out $22 million and have $643 million that you may have also doled out erroneously? The government needs to completely start over with FEMA, whose function is important but execution is pretty poor. How are you going to come back years later and ask for money that is already spent?

Some companies won't even issue flood-insurance policies in those areas, so when you lose your house, you lose your house. Add FEMA's foolishness to the stress of having to rebuild, and you do the math. FEMA -- not the disaster survivors or taxpayers -- should have to eat that mistake. How many more FEMA mess-ups are we going to have to hear about before something is done to make it a better-functioning agency?

Read more at MSN.