Thursday, June 12, 2008

Charities Question FEMA's Distribution of Katrina Supplies

CNN ("FEMA Gives Away $85 Million of Supplies for Katrina Victims") is reporting that Louisiana nonprofit groups are wondering why they were never offered any of the $85-million in supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stored for two years before giving them to federal and state agencies.

The supplies included buckets, boots, cleaning supplies, tents, camp stoves, clothing, plates, and utensils.  According to the CNN report, 

FEMA said some of the items were donations from companies after Katrina, but most were purchased in the field as "starter kits" for people living in trailers provided by the agency. And even though the stocks were offered to state agencies after FEMA decided to get rid of them, one of the states that passed was Louisiana.

John Medica, director of the Louisiana Federal Property Assistance Agency, sated that he was unaware that Katrina victims still had a need for the household supplies.  "We didn't have anybody out there who told us they wanted it," Medica said.

But Martha Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans, said she was shocked to learn about the existence of the goods and the government giveaway.  The CNN report quotes Kegel as saying: "These are exactly the items that we are desperately seeking donations of right now: basic kitchen household supplies.  These are the very things that we are seeking right now. FEMA, in fact, refers homeless clients to us to house them. How can we house them if we don't have basic supplies?"

For its part,

FEMA confirmed that it had kept the merchandise in storage for the past two years and then gave it away to cities, schools, fire departments and nonprofit agencies such as food banks. In all, General Services Administration records show, FEMA gave away 121 truckloads of material.


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