FEMA Needs a Massive Overhaul

Once again, FEMA's incompetence has reared its ugly head.  Many of you probably read Rep. Henry Waxman's and my letter to acting Director of FEMA David Paulison regarding high levels of formaldehyde in FEMA travel trailers.  In short, it appears that FEMA carelessly overlooked potential hazards in the trailers before they were issued to thousands of hurricane victims.  Preliminary reports indicate that the high levels of formaldehyde mixed with the hot summer air have lead to respiratory problems for trailer residents.

Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not the only problem that FEMA faces right now.  Last week, a report was issued which said that another $1.5 billion was awarded for temporary housing contracts on top of the already $3.4 billion that has been awarded since the hurricanes.  This week, reports have shown that keys issued to FEMA trailer park residents can open as many as 60 trailers in the same park.

Billions of dollars would seemingly be enough to provide safe and adequate housing for hurricane victims, but there remain thousands of people who are still waiting for temporary housing.  In St. Bernard Parish, one of
the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Katrina, 1,600 households are still waiting for trailers or have trailers that are still waiting to be connected to utility lines.  Meanwhile families are forced to live in trailers packed with 10 people when they were designed for three or four. It is simply inexcusable that people are forced to live like this in America.
What's worse, hundreds of trailers sit unused in various trailer parks around the Gulf Coast.  In Morgan City, La., which was relatively unscathed by the storms, only 15 families were in a trailer park designed for 198 as of two weeks ago.  We have the resources to help our citizens, but we don't have an organization that is capable of getting those resources to them successfully.

FEMA needs a massive overhauling and reexamination.  As we approach the one year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA is still struggling to complete its duties from the previous hurricane season. Very few people have any confidence that FEMA's performance would be any better if another major disaster struck our country.  It is time to restore Americans' confidence in their government.  I urge everyone to contact their representatives and voice their opinion on this issue.