William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE NEW FEMA – AT LAST, AT LAST – AT 11:51 A.M. ET:  Oh, the improvements in FEMA since Hurricane Katrina.  And why?  Because Barack, come to save us, is in power.  He waved his magic Obamawand, and FEMA became the can-do agency.  Well, maybe the wand needed fresher Alkalines that day.  From the New York Daily News:

Washed out by Hurricane Sandy, a growing number of New Yorkers are finding themselves facing a second challenge — the FEMA shuffle.

More than 230,000 New York storm victims have applied for housing help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the feds have approved $664 million. But untold numbers haven’t been so lucky, rejected by FEMA for a host of reasons that range from the ridiculous to the confounding.

Jennifer O’Connor and her fiance, Brendan O’Connor, experienced the FEMA shuffle in a mind-boggling series of rejection letters, followed a month later by a $2,486 check.

Jennifer and Brendan, both 35, live in a first floor apartment on Beach 117th St. in the Rockaways. Hurricane Sandy flooded their unit with 3 feet of frigid sea water that ruined pretty much everything they owned.

“Everything below (3 feet) was gone — all my art reference books, all of my clothes, my bed. It was devastating,” she said.

The couple applied for rental assistance separately. Jennifer got the first rejection notice, a form email she received from FEMA’s National Processing Center 270 miles away in Hyattsville, Md.

It started off with the phrase, “Ineligible — Insufficient Damage,” then listed the Total Grant Amount: $0.00.
When Jennifer appealed, she was denied again, but for a different reason. Now she was told she and Brendan couldn’t both apply because FEMA had decided they were related. Both happen to have the same last name — and the same birthday. They haven’t gotten married yet.

“The (FEMA) woman on the phone was trying to convince me that we were brother and sister,” Jennifer said last week. “And they weren’t very polite about it either.”

Last week Brendan finally got a check for $2,486 — nearly a month after the couple found themselves homeless. They’d spent that time moving from friend to family members, and can no longer return to their apartment.

In 2005, FEMA was excoriated for its disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina. This time around it’s received more praise than criticism from officials, though animosity toward the agency seems to swell in waterfront areas most affected by the storm.

COMMENT:  Maybe the O'Connors are learning the term "press bias."  FEMA was excoriated after Katrina because it was part of a conservative administration.  It got some praise this time because it's part of the Obama administration.  Truth has nothing to do with it.

In fact, some of the work done by the Bush administration in Katrina was spectacular, resulting in a death rate far below projections.  But they never got the credit, and the negligent officials – the New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor – never got the blame.

December 2, 2012