FEMA Asks Disaster Victims to Return Aid Money

Agency says it mistakenly sent out $22M years ago

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted May 10, 2011 7:50 PM CDT | Updated May 14, 2011 6:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Oh, FEMA. It's hard to top those formaldehyde Katrina trailers, but this comes close. The agency has begun sending letters to thousands of people who received disaster aid asking for its money back, reports AP. Specifically, FEMA says it mistakenly doled out $22 million to victims of tornadoes, floods, etc., since 2005, and it's obligated by law to get the money back. The agency is still reviewing old cases, including Katrina cases, meaning the total could rise.

One example: An Arkansas couple whose home was ruined in a 2008 flood received $27,000 that year to make repairs. In March of this year, FEMA informed them they had 30 days to pay it all back. "That money really helped," says the homeowner. "And now they want the check back like we've been sitting on it for all this time. It makes no sense." Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas agrees, and he's pushing a bill to give FEMA the legal leeway to waive debts that arose from its own mistakes. "This is not the victim's fault," Pryor says. "They did nothing wrong. They just followed FEMA's directions."

The legendary FEMA trailers, lined up in a 2009 file photo.
The legendary FEMA trailers, lined up in a 2009 file photo.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)
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