FEMA May Recoup Fraudulent Claims in Rita’s Aftermath

December 15, 2005

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants to help victims of Hurricane Rita who qualify for aid. In Texas, the agency has distributed more than $550.3 million in disaster assistance.

Assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other sources. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also are available for residential and business losses not covered by insurance. To date, SBA has approved $15.2 million in loans.

FEMA cautions that some recipients may be required to return funds if the agency determines that they received assistance erroneously, spent the funds inappropriately, obtained assistance fraudulently or received duplicate benefits. The law prohibits receiving money from two sources for the same loss.

A number of computerized methods are in place to detect fraud, errors, as well as duplicate benefits and applications. Anyone who suspects disaster fraud has been committed is urged to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General using a toll-free hotline, 866-720-5721. Service is available in English and Spanish.

If you believe you received funds in error, call FEMA at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for hearing- and speech-impaired.

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