Thursday, November 30, 2006

Judge orders FEMA to keep paying evacs rent money.

Nation: When I say FEMA to keep paying, I mean us taxpayers have to keep paying rent money. This has become another entitlement program with no end in sight. Regardless of the confusing FEMA letters, when does this end and how did evening appealing the decision become their constitutional rights being violated?

In the Washington case, Leon said FEMA mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program this spring and summer. FEMA, criticized for responding too slowly to the storm, said in a statement Wednesday that it sent letters outlining the program changes, explaining why some people were ineligible and describing the appeals process. Leon, however, said those letters contained only program codes and agency jargon and did not explain anything. Some evacuees got multiple letters with conflicting information, he said, leaving families unable to understand why their aid was being cut. Until FEMA explains itself and allows victims to appeal, Leon said the government must keep making housing payments. "It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights," Leon wrote. In his ruling, Leon cited statements submitted by evacuees describing the ordeal. "The reasons I have been given for the termination are not what is in the documents and/or the reasons change each time I call," said Carmen Handy, an evacuee whose statement was cited. "Every time I call back, the person answering the call knows nothing about what the previous person told me." Leon's ruling came in a case brought in August by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which said more than 11,000 families would be affected. FEMA did not immediately have data on how much the ruling would cost and said it was considering its legal options. Spokesman Charles D. Jackson of the advocacy group said FEMA was trying to spread word about the ruling through the scattered communities of evacuees, some of whom were left homeless by FEMA's decisions. "Because the government didn't do their job, we're suffering," said Carolyn Stevens, a Katrina evacuee living in Houston. "We can't just get up and work," she added, snapping her fingers. "We need a place to stay while we're repairing our home because we're on a fixed income." Other evacuees sided with FEMA and said the program has been going on long enough. "It's really making them lazy. They need to get back to work," said Lela Logan, a New Orleans native who said she got a job and rebuilt her life in Houston."
FEMA screwed up by not being specific and not setting end dates for how long you can be on this program. It will never end and taxpayers will be paying for it for years.

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