Hurricane Katrina

Why did FEMA deny that claim? Uh, that mold was there before the storm

Repair work on the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor was completed in 2009. The $6.2 million repair paid for with FEMA money restored the facility to the same configuration as before Hurricane Katrina.
Repair work on the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor was completed in 2009. The $6.2 million repair paid for with FEMA money restored the facility to the same configuration as before Hurricane Katrina. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

After Hurricane Katrina, Forrest County wanted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay more than $500,000 to get rid of mold in its courthouse.

FEMA: Denied. That mold was there before the storm.

The city of Gulfport wanted $727,427 for overtime pay.

FEMA: Denied. That overtime policy was adopted two days after the storm.

The Diamondhead Country Club and Property Owners Association wanted $1,079,150 to dredge Paradise Bayou and canals.

FEMA: Denied. The Country Club and POA facilities do not serve the public.

A review of a database provided by the Associated Press found $35,084,472 in denied claims for public assistance money — money to rebuild roads, schools and other infrastructure — that were appealed in Mississippi. FEMA then granted $13,548,242 but denied $21,536,230.

Mississippi had a much higher rate of denial than AP found in its analysis of all states with Katrina claims. It found about a third of those were denied. In Mississippi, more than 60 percent of the claims were denied.

There are no pending appeals in Mississippi among the 64 awaiting a final decision from FEMA. Of those from Mississippi that were decided, all but four — three for Hurricane Issac and one for a 1983 flood — were from Katrina.

And like the rest of the U.S., Mississippi has seen FEMA attempt to claw back money it believes may have been spent improperly. In the most recent case, FEMA is holding back nearly $30 million from MEMA for a program that paid homeowners to make their homes more hurricane resistant. It says the state failed to adequately document that program.

But the $35 million appealed in Mississippi is just a fraction of the $17.6 billion paid out by FEMA for Katrina across the U.S. for “public assistance hurricane spending.” Of the 82 appeals filed over that money, 51 were either totally or partially granted — more than $100 million worth. Another $119 million in appeals were denied.

And the public assistance money is just a fraction of the almost $2.6 billion spent on public assistance in the state. And while most of it, $1.7 billion of about $2.5 billion, was spent on the cost, more than $236,000 was spent on debris removal in Alcorn County at the northern state line.

Hurricanes account for almost three-quarters of all public assistance spending by FEMA. The rest are from storms, about 24 percent, and winter storms, a little over 1 percent.

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