In an act of stupidity so stunningly remarkable that it defies explanation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is selling used trailers it stores in Hope, Arkansas rather than provide them to storm victims. The trailers were originally purchased to house victims of Hurricane Katrina. The used ones have been returned to the government after the hurricane victims found more permanent accomodations. As you may remember, Dumas, Arkansas, 100 miles from Hope, was the site of horrific tornadoes in late February that left many families homeless.
I can see that light bulb going on over your head.
However, because Dumas was never declared a federal disaster area, FEMA will not release the used trailers to storm victims. Nor will they release any of the 20,000 brand new trailers that are also stored in Hope.
It would seem that FEMA lacks the will to redeem itself after bungling its response to Hurricane Katrina. Once the storms devastated Dumas the Director of FEMA, R. David Paulison, should have been on the phone with his boss, President Bush, and requested that the agency be allowed to assist the town. He should have done this for no other reason than to deflect any bad publicity away from his agency. I don't know what parameters the agency uses to determine if federal assistance is needed but they need to put one in the win column. The following is a description from USAToday of the damage wrought by the tornadoes:
The two tornadoes last month injured 27 people in Dumas, destroyed or damaged 150 homes, and put at least 800 people out of work in the small town. For days, the town was without electricity and residents had to boil their drinking water as a health precaution.
The agency is seen as sluggish and lethargic when disasters occur. In order to combat that, the staff of FEMA should be proactive. They should reach out to state officials and ask what they need when disasters occur. Much of the finger pointing after Katrina centered on politicians who didn't understand what they needed to do to get federal assistance. FEMA should take the lead on that. How much effort does a phone call take when the news shows you a town that has been crushed by a tornado?
Regardless of who's budget the assistance comes from, it is taxpayers who look to their government for asisstance when nature destroys large swaths of their hometown. Yes, most of these residents have insurance and yes, Arkansas has a state budget surplus. What matters in such a situation is getting assistance quickly. Filing insurance claims can take months. Finding your credit cards when they're two counties over can take even longer. These trailers were two hours away by truck. Taxpayer money bought those trailers and bungling bureacrats prevented them from being released to the people who need them.
It is unclear whether FEMA is useless or if they are trying togive us all a little tough love by making us fend for ourselves when disasters blow our homes away. Either way, we're not getting our money's worth from this bloated, inefficient agency.