Inflexible FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has rejected an appeal from Florida officials, determining for the second time that damage to the state from Hurricane Katrina was not bad enough to warrant individual disaster payments.
State officials said about 11,000 Floridians have applied for direct FEMA assistance as a result of Katrina — more than half of them with incomes below $20,000 a year. In addition to losses to agricultural damage, officials estimate Katrina will cost the industry 2,000 farm-related jobs in Miami-Dade County.
Daniel Craig, director of FEMA’s recovery division, said in a letter Wednesday to state officials that additional disaster surveys in Miami-Dade and Broward counties support FEMA’s previous conclusion that damage “is not of the severity and magnitude” necessary for individual assistance.
“The damage identified in the requested counties is not beyond the combined capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” Craig wrote to state emergency management chief Craig Fugate.
Florida, however, has no individual disaster assistance program, Fugate told FEMA officials in a Sept. 6 letter.
Granted, Katrina didn’t create anything like the devastation of the Gulf Coast when it swept across South Florida as a Category 1 storm on Aug. 25. Nonetheless, more than 350 homes were damaged or destroyed, and agriculture-related businesses suffered an estimated nearly $500 million in damage.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, sponsor of a bill that would force FEMA to make Katrina-related individual payments available in Florida, said Thursday she was “disappointed and appalled” at FEMA’s denial of the assistance appeal.
“It is irresponsible and unconscionable that a federal government agency charged with providing relief to individuals in dire need would deny assistance based on an arbitrary bureaucratic determination,” said Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
I guess FEMA is trying to make up for mistakenly paying $30 million to Miami-Dade residents after Hurricane Frances last year, though the storm landed more than 100 miles to the north and did not generate hurricane-force winds in the county.
Again — kudos to FEMA — at least you guys are consistent.