FEMA Taxed to Its Limits; Promises to Maintain Recovery Funds

May 12, 2005

“The hurricanes of 2004 taxed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to its limits, Michael Brown, FEMA director and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security told more than 1,500 state emergency managers attending the May 11 opening session of the 19th annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference at Tampa Convention Center.

Brown promised to keep recovery funds flowing as fast as possible, but criticized homeowners living near the state’s coastlines who are unprepared to evacuate and do not have hurricane plans.

He criticized Floridians for being unprepared for the 2005 hurricane season, referring to a Mason-Dixon survey mentioned earlier in the keynote presentation by Gov. Jeb Bush indicating only 70 percent of Floridians living in coastal areas have an evacuation plan.

“That 30 percent are people who just don’t get it,” Brown said. “Every resident without a plan will put emergency response personnel in danger performing rescues and evacuations that shouldn’t have been necessary.”

Brown defended FEMA’s handling of last year’s Florida hurricanes, denying accusations that it dragged its feet on aiding some storm victims while showering millions of dollars on undeserving residents in Miami-Dade County.

“That perception is just incorrect – we deal with everybody the same,” Brown said. “Any money that we spent in any county – Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Hardee County, DeSoto County – any money that we spent in any county does not take away from money we spend in another county.”

Nevertheless, Brown affirmed that more than 28,000 Floridians are stuck in temporary mobile homes and travel trailers. He said that glitches have occurred including a lot of confusion about what FEMA will and will not do.

Brown said there was a possibility FEMA might extend the 18-month leases on mobile homes and travel trailers occupied by people ejected from their homes by last season’s hurricanes.

He said the extensions are a possibility. But it is far from guaranteed.

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