WASHINGTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a plan to waive recoupment of improper disaster assistance payments that were disbursed due to government error, according to U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
Next week, FEMA will send letters to 90,000 affected individuals and households informing them they may be eligible for a waiver. These individuals and households must then respond to FEMA within 60 days to request a waiver and certify that they meet the criteria, including need, household income and appropriate use of funds.
Landrieu included a provision, authored by Pryor, in the year-end federal spending bill that allows the FEMA Administrator to waive a debt owed to the federal government if the individual earns less than $90,000 and was given assistance due to FEMA error. Previously, FEMA did not have the authority to waive any overpayment debt. This provision prohibits the administrator from waiving any debt that involves fraud. It was based on the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act (DARFA), which was authored by Pryor and co-sponsored by Landrieu and Cochran.
Cochran said, “I appreciate FEMA acting expeditiously to determine how to waive some debts in cases where the federal government erroneously distributed funds during the most severe disasters. The 2005 hurricane season was unprecedented in terms of the damage and chaos it caused along the Gulf Coast, but its magnitude also overwhelmed our government’s systems for distributing aid. It simply doesn’t make sense for the government to come knocking on the doors of struggling American families, sometimes more than six years after it mistakenly provided aid, and demand the assistance be repaid.”