U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today told FEMA they are wrong to pursue Arkansans who erroneously received disaster assistance because of the agency's mistakes three years ago under the Bush Administration.
FEMA has sent "Notice of Debt" letters to 35 Arkansas households informing them that they were ineligible for disaster payments received following severe storms, tornados and flooding dating back to 2008. According to FEMA, these individuals applied for and received improper payments and now must repay a combined total of $200,000 within 30 days before interest charges accrue or other collection actions occur.
"I expect FEMA to be prepared for disasters and have procedures in place for correctly distributing emergency assistance." Pryor said. "While dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, these individuals filled out detailed paperwork and underwent an extensive application process to receive disaster assistance so they could make repairs. Nothing should have fallen through the cracks. Yet, three years later, FEMA sends threatening letters to cover its mistakes."
Pryor said he learned about the situation when a 73-year-old woman from Mountain View, Arkansas contacted him. In 2008, FEMA approved $27,000 in disaster assistance for home repairs, but only after all of the appropriate documentation was submitted and verified through the FEMA inspection process. Last week, she received a letter indicating that she was never eligible for the assistance and must repay the funds this month.
"I'm not sure which is worse, the errors FEMA made distributing the funds or the judgment it used in demanding immediate repayment after three years passed," Pryor said. "I will continue to work with FEMA to fix and prevent this situation from happening again."