FEMA Overpays $8 Million to One Storm-Struck Port
Policy + Politics

FEMA Overpays $8 Million to One Storm-Struck Port

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is under fire once again for botching its administration of disaster relief, costing taxpayers millions in misspent dollars.

FEMA has a history of giving out too much money to people or organizations that might not actually qualify for disaster relief. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, federal auditors said the agency doled out $5.8 million in excess money due to lax oversight and management issues. It’s still trying to recoup that money.

Related: FEMA Still Doesn’t Know Where Its Money is Going

Now a new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General reveals that FEMA overpaid $8 million to the Port of Tillamook Bay, Ore., in storm recovery funds after floods and thunderstorms badly damaged the port.

The IG said that the agency misapplied the cost estimating format to determine how much to award the port, resulting in overpaying millions.

The storm badly damaged one of the railroads around the port, and FEMA was going to cover repairs. However, port authorities decided they wanted to use federal funding for an alternative project, since there were too many challenges plaguing the railroad.

The federal government can fund only certain alternative projects, and apparently this did not fit the guidelines, the auditors explained. Still, FEMA went along with it and used a flawed system to calculate how much to give to the port to fix other damaged facilities –resulting in $8 million extra dollars.

Related: FEMA’s $240 Million Disaster Relief System Doesn’t Work

“We maintain our disagreement with FEMA’s methodology and reasoning. FEMA needs to balance providing financial assistance to communities affected by disasters with its fiduciary responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money prudently,” the report said.

The IG requested that FEMA get the money back from the port. However, for now, FEMA and Tillamook Bay are standing by the agency’s cost estimates. They have 90 days to respond to the audit.

This isn’t the first time auditors have flagged FEMA for botching its administration of disaster relief.

In January, the IG reported that FEMA doled out about $177 million in improper payments to victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma who could have otherwise been covered by personal insurance.

FEMA is still trying to recoup those funds given out more than a decade ago.

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