FEMA follies and aid antics
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I know I am going to get flack for what I am about to write, but heregoes. When Katrina hit, my old high-school chum who lives in New Orleans was thankfully on vacation elsewhere. Her apartment was not affected, aside from some rotten food, nor was her pocketbook and car. Yet, she was the benefactor of checks for several thousands of dollars.
We all know the sequence of events. My quick-and-dirty synopsis would read: people were in serious danger, some folks in the government dropped the ball, the Bush Administration was widely criticized, lots and lots of money was thrown at the problem (FEMA even reported egregious overpayments), and the city and its citizens are recovering and rebuilding. It was a horrific event, and my heart goes out to all those affected.
I have a friend in NOLA who is a real-estate agent, who has been having a couple great years. Property values were higher after Katrina than before, she told a group of us. Tons of people were interested in investing in are real estate. Why were people flocking to put their money in an area built below sea level that is susceptible to hurricanes, flooding, various natural disasters?
Enter Gustav. My friends who reside in NOLA happily went on a "hurrication" -- or hurricane vacation -- and have posted photos of them imbibing and partying online via their mobile devices. Some expect a check will be waiting for them upon their return.
On the other end of the spectrum, a friend of the family was in one of 12 local FEMA groups called to duty in NOLA. He was given three hours notice, and whisked off to Atlanta for two weeks. That is where he sits now. Just sits. Other teams are doing the same, but in Virginia. Many speculate that since they are not needed, they should be sent home, lessening as much as possible the hefty bill the taxpayers will have to foot for their room, board, and hazard pay. They are told, instead and in so many words, that the Bush Administration is "edgy" about hurricane rescue, considering the controversies that surrounded the "handling" of Katrina, and so they will sit -- and prepare themselves for likely deployment to the East Coast, where Hurricane Hanna is expected to strike, or to stay in anticipation of Hurricane Ike.
Granted my universe is but a small one, but perhaps you can see how it looks from my perspective. Three of the three people I know in New Orleans are benefiting from these circumstances -- and believe me, I am grateful for that rather than seeing them or anyone else suffer. And yet, I have heard similar stories relating to Reservists deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Case in point: a family friend in the National Guard Reserves was called up and sent to Afghanistan to give other military personnel a break from their post there. He sat, sweating in Afghanistan for a year, and then came home and bought a house and new car in cash with his hazardous duty pay. Don't get me wrong, you could not offer me enough money to go to Afghanistan.
I bring this controversial issue up because over the weekend I ran into a friend who was giving up her nights and weekends to provide care to hundreds of local children and seniors who were without health insurance and could not gain health care. Her stories were heart-wrenching. She was relieved that people in need were getting the help they needed during a natural disaster, and yet, she was disheartened that those who are always needy and perpetually sick and hungry gain so little of the Administration's attention and resources.
And so I cannot help but be caused to wonder, are we as a country and is our administration doing to right thing with our money? Is there not enough to go around? Where is the happy medium? I hope the new administration, whatever it may be, has the answer.