TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Days after Ian’s explosion in Southwest Florida and several Bay Area communities from Sarasota to Polk County, 3,500 Federal Agency for emergency management would be in Florida ready to help.
And as of earlier this week, FEMA had provided $150 million in grants to more than 101,000 Florida families.
There was also a show of unity involving political opposites Governor Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden just two weeks after their last practice game.
“I don’t hear outrage about criminal aliens,” DeSantis had said following criticism of migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard.
Two charter planes flew 48 Venezuelans from Texas, Florida and to the island off Massachusetts at a cost to the taxpayer of $615,000.
A week later, after a scheduled but canceled flight to Biden’s home state, the president offered a sarcastic invitation to the governor of Florida.
“He should come visit,” Biden said with a smile. “We have a beautiful coastline.”
But when it comes to helping Florida, Tampa Bay-area Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor is confident political enemies will work together.
“It’s an emergency and when you have a storm like Hurricane Ian, a monster storm, the deadliest in the modern era, we all have to put politics aside,” Castor said. “We all have to hold them accountable to make sure they do.”
Even without the political momentum, FEMA has its own problems. A January 2022 investigation by a congressional watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found agency problems with “staff shortages” and “workforce qualifications”.
Christopher Currie, US GAO director of homeland security and justice, said some FEMA positions may be dispersed because the agency covers disasters in multiple states.
“They might be good on the number of people on the team who go door to door and work with different disaster survivors, but they might be short-term engineers to work on bigger projects,” he said. said Currie.
Currie also said sometimes the gaps show up later in the recovery process.
“A thought would involve how to rebuild the barrier islands [off Lee County,]said Curry. “How are they going to handle this?”
There are also concerns about effectively spending disaster relief money without fraud, involving not only FEMA but also the Small Business Administration which has been rocked by billions of dollars in stolen fraud during the COVID-19 crisis. .
8 on Your Side uncovered a scheme that victimized dozens of Bay Area residents who allegedly owned farms that didn’t exist.
“I’ve lived here almost 50 years and I’ve never picked up a hoe,” Tampa resident William Dreyer said at the time of the story.
Castor said that while she is confident in the agencies’ effectiveness, accountability is important.
“These funds are not unlimited. They are for people who are in dire straits, and Congress has a very important oversight role to hold the administration accountable when these funds are not used as they should be,” Castor said.
If you are aware of any delays or fraud related to Hurricane Ian assistance, please contact Walt Buteau of the WFLA.