Pryor to FEMA: Get A Plan
Introduces Bill to Stop Wasteful Spending on Housing Units Left Behind After Hurricane Katrina
Senator Mark Pryor today reintroduced legislation to require FEMA to decide the fate of the 120,000 temporary housing units that remain in Hope, AR and 19 other storage sites around the country. The shelters were built to help families affected by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Pryor said FEMA, at taxpayer expense, continues to pay storage, maintenance and security fees at a cost of more than $125 million per year. The FEMA Accountability Act gives the agency 3 months to determine the number of housing units it needs on hand to shelter future disaster victims; six months to provide a plan to permanently store the units it plans to keep, sell or transfer usable surplus units and dispose the rest; 9 months to implement its plan and one year to report the status to Congress. The legislation provides flexibility to allow FEMA to address the formaldehyde in trailers in order to ensure they are safe for public use.
"The thousands of vacant housing lined up in fields across the nation remain a symbol of the mismanagement and failures that followed Hurricane Katrina. It adds insult to injury that taxpayers continue to pick up the tab for storage and maintenance," Pryor said. "The new leadership at FEMA is working hard to restore this agency to the well-oiled machine it once was. My legislation is meant to put this matter on their priority list so it doesn't slip through the cracks."
As of June 2008, FEMA estimates nearly 108,000 units were unusable either because they could not be prepared to house disaster victims within 24 hours or because it was not economically feasible to make necessary improvements to the units due to high formaldehyde levels or decay. The three largest storage sites are located in Lottie, Louisiana; Hope, Arkansas; and Melville, Lousiana. These sites contain approximately 25,600, 19,000, and 16,000 unusable temporary housing units, respectively. By FEMA's calculation, each unit costs approximately $1,000 per year to store and maintain, resulting in an annual federal expenditure of $125 million, $92 million of which goes towards maintaining units it considers unusable.
Pryor originally introduced the FEMA Accountability Act on November 16, 2007, which was unanimously passed in the Senate on September 24, 2008.
Pryor previously sponsored and Congress passed the Hope Housing Act of 2006 to waive the FEMA regulation that prohibits manufactured homes from being located in floodplains. He also advanced legislation into law to allow the agency to donate surplus trailers and manufactured homes to non-profits and municipalities. Approximately 1,700 shelters from Hope, AR have been auctioned or sold.