Committee on

Homeland Security Democrats

Bennie G. Thompson, Ranking Member

For Immediate Release: Contact: Jennifer Porter Gore

September 30, 2005 Nadra Harrison


FEMA Cuts off Expedited Assistance for Hurricane Katrina Victims

Decision Leaves Potentially Thousands of Victims Without Survival Funds

WASHINGTON–As Hurricane Rita struck the Texas-Louisiana border, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ended the $2,000 in Expedited Assistance it was granting hurricane Katrina victims for housing and other essential disaster-related needs. Personnel within FEMA have told Congressional investigators that this determination was made because other assistance programs, which do not provide on-the-spot assistance, were becoming available.

“FEMA continues to make one bad decision after another. Victims of Hurricane Katrina were told they would get cash assistance and then not get assistance and now, suddenly, the agency has ended the program. These American families have lost everything and the current Administration is too busy spending money on photo ops to care,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “It is time for FEMA to start taking an interest in its job and start doing right by the towns and cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Cutting off emergency survival funds for those in need is a sign of the incompetent and bureaucratic Department of Homeland Security at work.”

The execution of FEMA’s Expedited Assistance program after Hurricane Katrina has been marred by error since it was announced. Soon after the program began, it was abruptly cancelled, only to be reactivated. Evacuees were forced to wait in daylong lines, only to be turned away when funds in certain locations ran out.

“FEMA was created to provide immediate assistance to those in need after disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). “Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, this agency has proved its incompetence in being able to provide essential emergency assistance. Everyday, my office fields complaints from constituents who applied for assistance and still have yet to receive any FEMA funds. These monies are used for food, diapers, medicines, and other essential items. For FEMA to cut off these funds now is unacceptable and FEMA should reinstate the expedited assistance program immediately until all qualified individuals receive the money to which they are entitled.”

“Thirty days is fine if you can actually reach FEMA during those thirty days. Many folks couldn’t get to a FEMA recovery center to stand in line and only got busy signals when they tried to call,” added Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon. “Once again the FEMA devotion to bureaucracy has trumped common sense. When are they going to throw away their old playbook and figure out how to actually help people?”

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