FEMA Dragging Heels on Recouping $643M

Awaiting its own final approval of debt collection overhaul
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2011 8:10 AM CST
Newly nominated FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate leaves a news conference after touring areas that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Thursday, March 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
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(Newser) – Here's something else FEMA isn't good at: Getting its money back. A new government report says that the emergency agency hasn't even tried to get back some $643 million in improper payments it made more than three years ago. What's the holdup? FEMA still hasn't given the final OK to a revamped process for recouping its own cash.

The backlog involves some 160,000 applicants who requested aid after Katrina, Rita, and other disasters and wrongly received it, reports the AP; officials blame FEMA error, fraud, or other mistakes. A federal judge ordered the debt collection overhaul in 2007, and the measure has been awaiting approval of FEMA's administrator since late 2008. Current administrator Craig Fugate was confirmed in May 2009. A FEMA spokeswoman says the agency is "committed to being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars," and is hurrying. (In related FEMA news, New Orleans is trying to kick residents out of the last FEMA trailers.)

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