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Entries in FEMA (10)

Tuesday
Nov062012

Superstorm Sandy: FEMA Trailers May Be Used to House Homeless

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the Northeast braces for a nor'easter in the wake of superstorm Sandy, government leaders are turning their attention to finding long-term housing for tens of thousands of people left homeless.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) might help some people, but it would be just one way victims of Sandy could find shelter.  Others might move to hotels or other temporary housing.

"There are some local governments that will want trailers.  Many communities on Long Island use trailers during situations like this.  And they're frequently seen.  So some communities, it's going to be a community by community option," Cuomo said at a Monday press conference.

There are still more than 1.4 million homes and businesses without power -- more than 115,000 in New York City alone.  Sandy has left as many as 40,000 New Yorkers homeless, according to city officials.  About half of those people live in public housing.

FEMA has already dispensed close to $200 million in emergency housing assistance and put 34,000 people in New York and New Jersey in hotels and motels.  Still, city and state officials have not laid out an official plan with specifics to move the homeless into long-term housing in an already congested area.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Monday that the government's first priority is getting people to a warm place where they can eat a hot meal.  Beyond that, the government wants to find housing as close to people's homes as possible.

"We're in the process of looking at all options for housing," she said.  "Given the extent of the housing need, no option is off the table."

Compounding the immediate need for housing is a nor'easter that is expected to bring rain and high winds on Wednesday to the areas hit hard by Sandy.

"There's always a chance of there being a little snow.  But right now, it looks like most of the rainfall from this system will be confined to coastal areas.  We expect most of it, especially across the mid-Atlantic region that were hit by Sandy, to fall in the form of rain," Brian Korty, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, told ABC News.

The worst weather for New York City and the tri-state area will be Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, with wind gusts along the coast near 50 mph.  A storm surge of 1 to 4 feet is possible in coastal New Jersey and Long Island.

"Under normal conditions it wouldn't be that problematic.  This is complicated because this is a storm that would approach before we have recovered from the first storm," Cuomo said.

The Red Cross doesn't expect the nor'easter to hurt its ability to get hot meals to victims.

"We have 5,300 Red Cross workers from all over the country who are here trying to help.  And as long as it's safe to do so, volunteers will be out there," said Red Cross worker Daphne Hart.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar042012

Obama Calls Governors of Storm-Ravaged States

Pete Souza/Official White House Photo(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama called the governors of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky on Saturday regarding the deadly tornados that have claimed at least 35 lives across a wide swath of the United States since Friday.

A White House release says Obama was briefed by FEMA director Craig Fugate before the call, and pledged the emergency response agency is poised to provide assistance to state recovery efforts if necessary. The president offered condolences to the victims of the storms and acknowledged it may be days before the full extent of damage is known.

Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky bore the overwhelming majority of casualties from the last day’s storms, which were only the latest waves of extreme weather to hit the Midwest and South in the last week. All three have declared a state of emergency.

FEMA says the federal government has already deployed surveyors to Illinois and Missouri for damage assessment at the request of those states. The officials are there to help governors determine if additional help is required from Washington. The administration also says it is in the process of stocking a Kentucky staging area with 98,000 meals and other commodities to be released if requested by governors.

“Our priority, as always, is to make sure that we are here to support local efforts to keep residents and communities safe,” Fugate said in a written statement. “FEMA has teams on the ground in hard hit areas and is prepared to deploy additional teams and resources if needed by the state.”

People who wish to donate to relief efforts or volunteer can find more information here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

FEMA Wants Money Back from 73-Year-Old Couple

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One senator took action against the U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday, telling it to call off the debt collection branch trying to collect $37,000 from an elderly couple.

The Treasury Department seeks money from the Arkansas couple because of what looks like a FEMA mixup. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the couple $27,000 for damages sustained during a flood in 2008, but three years later, FEMA said it had made a mistake. The letter FEMA sent to the couple said the two were ineligible for the funds they received because their home was located in a Special Flood Hazard Area and their community chose not to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

This March, FEMA demanded the couple pay back every single penny the government had given them within 30 days.

The elderly couple couldn’t do that. So FEMA turned the matter over to the Treasury Department for debt collection, upping the amount due to $37,000 to include late fees and interest.

Seventy-three-year-old Carolyn Guglielmannas sent a handwritten letter to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., recounting her story and asking for help.

Wednesday morning Pryor took to the Senate floor and put a hold on all Treasury Department nominees until the group agreed to leave the couple alone.

In Arkansas news reports Pryor said this hold would force the Treasury Department to work with him to resolve the case.

The U.S. Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a call or emails.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep162011

Napolitano on Disaster Relief Fund: 'We Do Not Have Enough Money'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed frustration Thursday that Congress has not moved swiftly enough to pass a supplemental funding bill for FEMA in this year of wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes.

“The fight we’re in now is to get money for the disaster relief fund.  We do not have enough money -- given the number of disasters we’ve had this year -- to finish the fiscal year, and to do all the things we have to do,” Napolitano said Thursday at the Aspen Institute.

“I had to have a meeting with my FEMA director about things we will have to stop in places around the United States, unless Congress signals that they’re ready to put a supplemental into the Disaster Relief Fund,” Napolitano said.

There are competing packages in the Senate and House about how much extra money should be provided to FEMA and the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.  The White House has said that Hurricane Irene will cost $1.5 billion through 2012.  The Office of Management and Budget has said there is an additional $5.2 billion needed for non-Hurricane Irene disaster needs.

“It means existing joint field offices in disaster areas around the country, where we’re doing recovery,” Napolitano said of the implications of the budget crunch and what services may cease without the funding.  “It means public assistance for things like rebuilding fire stations and schools that were destroyed in the tornadoes in the spring and the flooding in the spring, and what we’ve seen recently.  It may even mean going back as far as some of the investments that we made to repair Katrina.”

According to DHS officials, the Disaster Relief Fund currently stands at $351 million.  After Hurricane Irene and deadly spring tornadoes and severe flooding in the Dakotas, the fund has been strained.  In recent weeks, the fund has dropped almost $450 million.  DHS officials said that on Aug. 30, the fund stood at just under $800 million.

FEMA had to place funding restrictions on longer-term repair and rebuilding projects from previous and current disasters because the fund had dropped below $1 billion.  FEMA officials say that when the Disaster Relief Fund has been under $1 billion they have used a funding method called “Immediate Needs Funding,” which prioritizes the immediate needs of disaster survivors, states, and communities during disasters, so that FEMA can continue its focus on response and urgent recovery efforts without any interruption."

“The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds.  Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures, or any debris clearance or any project that had already been approved,” said FEMA Director Craig Fugate said at a White House briefing on Aug. 29, 2011 after Irene had passed up the East Coast.

“The only thing that we have postponed is new projects that are permanent work that had not been started when we go into immediate needs funding.  And that is to ensure that we still have funds to do this response, continue to meet the needs of the survivors of the previous disasters, while supporting the initial response to Hurricane Irene,” he said.

Similar funding limitations went into effect in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

Reid Proposes $6 Billion Stand-Alone Disaster Aid Bill

Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Noting that the natural disasters have come “fast and furious” this summer, causing many Americans to suffer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday that he will propose a free-standing bill that would provide $6 billion in relief funds.

“I don’t see how we -- this great nation we have -- can stand on the sidelines while our people are suffering.  We should get relief to people when they need it,” Reid said, mentioning the damage in Joplin, Missouri, the effects of hurricanes Irene and Lee, and the recent earthquake in Virginia.

The money for the bill would come from the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Reid said.

“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” he said.  “And we’re going to do that.”

Reid took a swipe at some of his Republican colleagues, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who early on said that any relief funds needed to be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget.

“Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to -- I was going to say something that was vulgar, and I’m not going to do that -- are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts.  For example, Rep. Cantor suggested that we should hold up disaster relief to meet the Tea Party’s demands.  Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree,” Reid said.

Cantor, who last month insisted that any new money for federal disaster relief be offset by spending cuts, issued a written statement on Wednesday regarding Reid’s stand-alone disaster assistance bill.  Cantor said he’s waiting for a specific request from President Obama and is awaiting details of Reid’s request.

“The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama,” Cantor said.  “Though details remain vague, it is being reported that Majority Leader Reid plans to move an unprecedented stand-alone measure that includes up to $7 billion in FEMA disaster funds for next year in the coming weeks.  I would ask Leader Reid to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug312011

Disaster Relief Funding: Parties Spar Over FEMA Appropriations

Damage from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene is seen near the Irving gas station at the junction of Route 4 and Route 100 in Killington, Vermont on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite preliminary damage estimates for Hurricane Irene ranking in the billions of dollars, additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency could get caught up in the gridlock of partisan budget battles.

A Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday that it is “highly unlikely” Congress will reach an agreement on supplemental appropriations for the agency in the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, the “natural place for additional disaster relief funding.”

Instead, the aide said that any disaster relief funding will likely be attached to the stopgap funding bill that must pass through Congress by the end of September. Unless, that is, by some miracle both houses of Congress pass all of their appropriations bills -- a legislative long shot.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said earlier this week that any additional disaster funding would have to be offset by spending cuts -- a position that could be a tough sell for congressional Democrats.

“Are House Republicans willing to shut down the federal government in order to satisfy their demands for offsets on disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Irene?” asked the aide, who did not want to be identified.

FEMA announced last weekend that the agency had less than $800 million in its bank account, forcing it to halt long-term projects such as rebuilding roads and schools in order to focus on the immediate needs of Hurricane Irene victims.

“We are going to find the money. We’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” Cantor said on Fox News Monday.

Cantor’s comments were met with harsh criticism from the White House and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who noted that emergency supplemental appropriations were “historically the way disaster relief funding has been handled.”

In June the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would give FEMA an additional $1 billion for this fiscal year and increase the agency’s funds by $700 million for fiscal year 2012. The bill reduces grants for clean-energy vehicles in order to make up for the additional disaster relief funds -- a move the Democrat-controlled Senate does not support and has not passed.

With Republicans’ renewed insistence on balancing any additional FEMA funding with equal spending cuts, there is little chance Congress will reach a compromise and appropriate additional funds before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Any supplemental disaster funds will then have to be tucked into the next continuing budget resolution, which Congress will have to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Despite this lack of congressional appropriations, federal officials insist FEMA will meet the needs of all disaster victims, including those from Hurricane Irene, those from floods earlier this year along the Mississippi River Valley, and those from tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.

“We’re going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible,” President Obama said Monday. “And we’re going to keep it up as long as hurricane season continues.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug282011

Irene Moves On: Millions Without Power, 14 Dead

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Irene, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, swept through the Northeast Sunday, leaving at least 14 dead in its wake, millions without power and an estimated $7 billion to $13 billion in damages.

"We're not out of the woods yet. Irene remains a large and potentially dangerous storm," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

The storm made landfall in Coney Island, N.Y., at 8:45 a.m. Sunday morning as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds, but by 10 a.m. patches of blue sky and sunshine began peeking through in lower Manhattan.

The storm, which created flood conditions up and down the East Coast, is accompanied by heavy rainfall and powerful winds. But Irene appeared to have caused less damage than anticipated in the New York area, and forecasts indicate the tropical storm will weaken in New England and become a post-tropical cyclone tonight or early Monday.

The hurricane is moving through southern New England Sunday afternoon.

While Irene's strength has declined and residents return home, government officials are warning the public that the storm still poses safety dangers.

"We encourage you to stay off the roads so much as possible," Napolitano said at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) news conference.

"We still have a ways to go with Irene," she said.

Some areas are still prone to tidal flooding and heavy will be the ongoing issue as the storm passes through New England today to eastern Canada overnight, FEMA officials said.

Officials said it will take time to assess total damage costs but Peter Morici, a professor at University of Maryland predicts that the projected dollar figure will surpass Hurricane Katrina.

"Revised estimates of the direct damage caused by Hurricane Irene are in the range of $20 billion. Add to those the loss of about two days economic activity, spread over a week, across 25 percent of the economy, and an estimated of the losses imposed by Irene is about $40 to 45 billion," Morici said.

At least 14 people have reportedly died as a result of Irene's assault on the East Coast, including victims of car accidents and falling tree limbs.

Tornadoes reportedly touched down in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware, according to the National Hurricane Center's John Cangialosi.

For an hour on Saturday night, there was a tornado warning for Philadelphia's Center City, though there was no indication a tornado actually touched down. Tornadoes often form during hurricanes, but are hard to spot or track because of all the violent weather around them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb012011

Emergency Responders Prepared for Worst as Storm Hits

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- As cities across the United States brace for the worst, emergency departments race to prepare for severe winter weather rolling across the country.

Chicago is among those cities that have begun preparations for the storm. Dr. Christian Theodosis at the University of Chicago Hospital said his institution has been making preparations including “discharging patients early from the hospital” and “canceling cases that are elective.”  Staff there are setting up beds in case they are unable to leave once the storm picks up.

Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said he expects vulnerable populations such as the elderly and the homeless to increase significantly. “In the last two days we’ve had a huge surge in the emergency department ... where we usually see about 250 patients we hit over 300 and that especially for the day of the week we really were kind of surprised ... a lot of them were saying 'I have an appointment later this week but I am worried I won’t be able to get to my doctor,'" said Khare.
 
In Dallas, where the storm has already hit, Chair of Emergency Medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dr. Paul Pepe described the local conditions as the “worst case scenario,” and noted an overnight rain that froze to ice when the cold swept through at dawn. “Everything is completely frozen ... I’m looking at a car wreck right now," Pepe told ABC.

The National Guard has also dispatched large numbers in preparation for the storm. According to new figures, more than 1,200 citizen soldiers and airmen have been called out in five states including Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. The states of Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana have put the National Guard on alert but have not yet dispatched additional units.

FEMA has said they are prepared to aid emergency responders with emergency commodities including more than 5 million liters of water, 3 millions meals, 500,000 blankets, 110,000 cots and more than 500 power generators.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan222011

Settlement Reached in FEMA Trailer Suit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- The companies that made FEMA mobile homes will pay $2.6 million to people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 who sued them over alleged exposure to dangerous levels of toxic formaldehyde.

The settlement affects several thousand people, but it does not involve the claims for residents who lived in smaller FEMA "travel trailers,” which housed the majority of storm victims.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Inspector General Blasts FEMA Under Bush for $450K Grant to ACOR

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a report obtained by ABC News -- one supposed to be embargoed until Dec. 8 -- the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General concluded that an affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) “should not have received” a $450,484 federal grant in 2007 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for “a pilot program that would develop best practices for community organizations to canvass high-risk neighborhoods and distribute and install safety equipment, such as smoke detectors or fire extinguishers.”

The IG wrote that his staff at the ACORN Institute “did not fully implement and evaluate the program as approved, and could not substantiate all its grant expenditures,” and recommended that FEMA “review all of ACORN Institute’s grant expenditures, take action to recover any unsubstantiated expenses, and determine whether any action is necessary to suspend or debar ACORN Institute from receiving future DHS, FEMA, and other federal government assistance.”

A FEMA spokesperson issued a statement saying that “the grant in question was awarded in 2007 under the previous Administration, and we will continue to work with the Inspector General to make sure this kind of isolated incident does not happen again. FEMA’s current leadership is committed to being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensuring that the grants we award are used as intended, and look forward to working with all lawmakers and stakeholders who share this goal.”

The Inspector General also concluded that FEMA’s oversight processes were insufficient, and that while the Technical Evaluation Panel that reviewed ACORN’s grant request recommended it not be funded, “FEMA overrode the panels’ recommendation and awarded the grant.”

On April 1, 2010, ACORN Inc announced it would close its offices, following controversies prompted by videos filmed by a conservative activist that seemed to show ACORN employees offering advice in how to conduct unlawful activities.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio