FEMA Wants $4.7M in Mississippi Katrina Victims’ Benefits

April 24, 2006

More than 2,000 Mississippi residents have been notified that they must repay millions of dollars in federal Hurricane Katrina benefits that were excessive or, in some cases, fraudulent.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking a total of $4.7 million from 2,044 people, giving them 30 days to repay or set up a payment plan.

Some storm victims got duplicate or extra benefits because of FEMA errors, agency spokesman Eugene Brezany said, and others might have received benefits for expenses that later were reimbursed by insurance settlements.

Some others benefited “by intentional misrepresentation” or the mistaken belief that secondary residences qualified for payments, he said.

More people could get repayment notices as more applications are reviewed. Recipients could have received from $2,000 to $26,200.

Federal auditors have blamed FEMA for much of the benefit abuse after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, citing what they called an inadequate accounting system. The Government Accountability Office in Washington has said thousands of inappropriate payments were made because people were able to repeatedly apply for and collect benefits.

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