MIAMI — Three South Florida cities are being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General for “questionable invoices” and other documents submitted by consultants for reimbursement of debris cleanup from Hurricane Irma.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed its review of documents submitted by officials in El Portal, Miami Shores and Florida City, and referred the matter to the inspector general for further investigation into whether fraudulent invoices were submitted, the Miami Herald reported. The invoices from for cleanup from the storm that battered much of Florida in September 2017.
An extended investigation means the cities will, at the very least, have to wait longer to receive any additional federal money related to the storm.
As of November, the tiny, cash-strapped village of El Portal had received just over $145,000 of the nearly $2.1 million it sought from FEMA for Irma cleanup. The village has yet to pay off a $1.25 million line of credit it took out in August 2018 to pay bills from a debris removal contractor, the newspaper reported.
Florida City has received $343,000 of the $5.2 million it asked for, while Miami Shores hadn’t received any of the $3.2 million it requested.
FEMA had suspended its reimbursement efforts for all three while the inspector general conducts a review, agency spokesman David Mace told the Herald. FEMA releases reimbursement money to the state of Florida that the state can then turn over to local governments.
El Portal Village Manager Christia Alou told the Herald the village is “cooperating fully with authorities and providing all necessary information as requested.”
“We sincerely hope this matter is resolved quickly so the Village can receive its refund soon,” Alou said.
Officials in Miami Shores and Florida City did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
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