The New Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Well, maybe not new, but things are changing and we have seen this coming for some time. In our last blog Tampa Bay Residents Wait on FEMA we noted that staff from FEMA were in the area to inspect the flooding that resulted from three weeks of intense rain. Attempting not to jinx the process, I held off offering my opinion on the likely outcome of the FEMA inspection. But now we know FEMA has turned down requests from State and local officials to provide financial assistance to homeowners and businesses damaged due to the flooding.
While the denial of FEMA assistance is being appealed, don’t look for a reversal. FEMA is under the gun due to billions of dollars of deficits because of payouts from the 2004/2005 hurricanes and 2012 Super Strom Sandy event. This most recent denial is not the first I have read about and I doubt it will be the last. With the federal government sequester in place to reduce the national debt, we can expect a continued tightening of the funds from the federal government going forward.
Now we are reading that the other shoe is dropping as a lot of property owners who received financial help after Sandy are getting notices that FEMA is active in their clawback efforts to get them to pay back money they may not have been eligible for. This article, FEMA Demanding Liars Give Back Sandy Payments , details the efforts currently under way to get millions of dollars back from homeowners who were deemed not eligible for government assistance for a variety of reasons outlined in this report.
This clawback should not be confused with the National Flood Insurance Program, which made payments to insured policyholders for flood damages to homes and businesses covered in a NFIP policy they purchased. Under the grant program, FEMA provided additional financial assistance for temporary housing and other expenses that were not covered by insurance. Now with audits under way, the government is looking to get its money back from people who most likely have already spent the money in the early days following Sandy’s landfall.
Some NFIP policyholders have their own set of problems as this system like the FEMA grant program is also being audited. My guess is that there will be similar clawback efforts for flood payments that were not justified. We are also reading about property owners who signed on with lawyers in the hopes of getting more money, not getting the settlements they and their lawyers were hoping for. Again, this is not surprising to me as the times are changing when it comes to the bailout philosophy we all have come to expect from the federal government.
Finally, for those who think FEMA assistance is the answer to all our flooding woes, just look at what homeowners from Superstorm Sandy Floods have had to deal with regarding FEMA in this article: Hurricane Sandy’s Red Tape Makes a Veteran Say, I’d Rather Go Back to Falluja Let’s hope FEMA learns from these issues and reforms to better protect our homeowners and offer a more sustainable and responsible safety net.
Folks, we are in a new era, so it’s time to think about personal responsibility. Ultimately, it’s up to everyone of us and especially those who know they live in a flood prone area to educate themselves about flood insurance, take the best preventative measures they can and work with local officials to minimize future problems. Sure the first responders will always be there for life and safety needs, but don’t look for the feds or your local government to bail you out financially. Be advised, the new FEMA has arrived.