FEMA Fumbles The Ball: The Ballad of Clay Gates

FEMA Dollars: Their "Precious," and they wants it back...

     In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall in the U.S. near Galveston, Texas. Overall, Ike caused an estimated 29.6B dollars worth of damage in the U.S. alone. One victim of that damage was Clay Gates of La Porte, Texas. Hurricane Ike pushed almost five feet of water through Mr. Gates’ house, leaving thousands of dollars worth of damage in its wake.

     Clay Gates, like thousands of other Ike victims, applied for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA got back to him and, after supplying them with the plethora of information that they requested, told him that he qualified for nearly 23,000 dollars in relief aid. FEMA then direct-deposited the funds into Mr. Gates’ account. Since then, Mr. Gates has used the funds frugally, doing most of the repair work himself to maximize on value while minimizing spending. In short, Clay Gates has been responsible with the funds.

     Now, a little over three years later, FEMA is putting its hand back out to Clay Gates, and wanting the entire amount back. FEMA has informed Mr. Gates that the aid was given in error, and that he never qualified for it in the first place. In addition, the case has been transferred to the Internal Revenue Service, which has attached penalties and fees to the amount. In all, the U.S. government is now coming after Clay Gates for 31,442 dollars and, to add insult to injury, is only giving him ten days to pay it.

     In the wake of Hurricane Ike, FEMA’s response to the emergency was criticized as slow, to the extent that state leaders accused FEMA of “foot-dragging.” Affected citizens had to wait from weeks to months for FEMA trailers to be delivered, and in yet another twist, FEMA did not issue debit card aid to victims as it had with Hurricane Katrina.

     The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been the butt of jokes, borne the burden of increased scrutiny in the wake of disasters and has yet to prove itself an efficient agency of the government. In my less-than-humble opinion, what they are now doing to Clay Gates and people like him (I’m sure there are others!) is a travesty. I don’t see the Treasury Department going after Solyndra to recoup the 535 million that was given to them, yet they’re chasing after a victim of natural disaster for a few thousand? My fine young readers, this country’s government’s priorities are seriously screwed up!

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