Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Class action lawsuit against FEMA

Benjamin T. Greenberg, blogger and "In These Times" contributor, is publishing details from a class action lawsuit against FEMA on his blog, "HungryBlues." Pamela Jackson is one of the plaintiffs:
Pamela Jackson is 37 years old and has seven children who live with her ex-husband. Hoping to regain custody of at least some of her children, Ms. Jackson saved for months and bought a trailer with room for her young children two weeks before Hurricane Katrina, with arrangements to move into it within a few weeks. When Ms. Jackson returned to New Orleans after having been evacuated, she learned that her trailer survived Hurricane Katrina with only minor, repairable damage. Ms. Jackson got the materials she needed to make the repairs, but when she returned to her trailer, it had been moved from its plot in the trailer park to an area where it is no longer connected to gas, electricity or plumbing. She had been evicted so that room could be made in the trailer park for FEMA trailers. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Jackson had dreamed of the day when she would once again have a home with her kids. Ms. Jackson has been told, however, that if she does not soon remove her trailer from where it was subsequently placed, it would be destroyed. Ms. Jackson has nowhere to relocate her trailer because FEMA will not permit her to place her own trailer on the land that FEMA has leased for its trailers and the other trailer parks in the area have raised their rates beyond Ms. Jackson’s means. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Ms. Jackson was living in St. Bernard Parish, where she rented a room. Although she received $2358 from FEMA prior to returning to New Orleans, she was never told how the money could be used. She used it for clothing, food, and shelter, and currently has almost nothing remaining.
Mr. Greenberg has posted numerous other stories like this one this month. The complaint itself is online at FindLaw. From the complaint's preamble, via Greenberg:
1. The federal agency charged by statute to care for Americans who are victims of natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), failed to fulfill its mandate before, during and after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. As a result, more than two months after the tragedy, thousands of Americans continue to be victimized, this time by bureaucratic inaction, indifference and incompetence. FEMA has failed to provide temporary housing assistance to these disaster victims in violation of the plain requirements of federal law. The poor and vulnerable – including children, the elderly, and the disabled – are suffering the most.

2. As of this late date, FEMA has:
• Failed to provide any temporary housing assistance to certain individuals and families, including those with disabilities, who applied for help as much as two months ago;
• Failed to provide basic information to disaster victims regarding the scope and conditions of the available temporary housing assistance, including how they can continue to receive financial assistance beyond the initial three month period;
• Denied temporary housing assistance to individuals who lived at the same address, but in a separate home as another, unrelated, person who also applied for housing assistance;
• Refused to provide additional temporary housing assistance to families that, because of their size, were entitled to more than the standard amount of housing assistance;
• Required disaster victims to apply for Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loans as a condition for obtaining FEMA temporary housing assistance; and
• Imposed retroactively inconsistent rules regarding funds some victims have already received.
A New York Times article notes that "The plaintiffs are not seeking damages, but immediate assistance."

3 Comments:

Blogger eRobin said...

It's interesting that they're not seeking damages and only the assistance. Smart strategy.

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