FEMA: It Was Broken Long Before Katrina

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

FEMA: It Was Broken Long Before Katrina

Hurricane Katrina may have brought to light the bumblers at FEMA, but there were signs long before that hurricane struck that the agency was not properly performing its duties. Much of that evidence is provided at FEMAinfo.us -- a website started by Steven Kanstoroom. The site collects evidence of FEMA failures and offers tips to victims who are trying to receive assistance.

In this September 2004 letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Kanstoroom looks back at how FEMA responded to the damage caused by Hurricane Isabel. He writes:
"The Hurricane Isabel Task Force was to have been independent .... (it) has not been. Many of the same adjusters and adjusting firms that were involved in the low-ball claims were invited to be part of the Task Force.

".... The notification process involving the claims preview was also flawed ... [Marylanders who tried to file claims] described piles of mail returned as undeliverable and general chaos within the Task Force. Non-existent rules, circumvented by rules made up as they went along. Significant disparities exist between the handful of claims properly paid and the scores of claims wrongfully denied."
Kanstoroom's letter also criticizes the fact that former FEMA Director David Maurstad took a "a position contrary to the intended goal of Congress that flood victims be restored to their pre-flood conditions. Mr. Maurstad described FEMA's position as viewing the NFIP as a form of Federal assistance, not insurance."

If Maurstad was actually describing NFIP as something other than an insurance program, then he was guilty of misrepresenting NFIP. After all, as FEMA's website spells out, NFIP stands for the National Flood Insurance Program. Could anything be more clear?

There's something Orwellian in trying to tell people that an insurance program is not an insurance program.

Learn more about FEMA's keystone cops from MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles.

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