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FEMA asks Floridians to repay $30.3-million

Most of that has been duplicated by insurance payments for 2004 storm losses, the agency says.

By Associated Press
Published October 5, 2005

FORT PIERCE - The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was accused of mismanagement, fraud and waste after last year's four hurricanes, has asked more than 7,600 Floridians to return $30.3-million in emergency hurricane aid.

Most of the repayment requests were made because insurance settlements were paid after the government aid was doled out. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance coverage, spokesman Jim Homstad said.

In a few cases, FEMA wants to recoup payments mistakenly repeated or money given out due to processing errors, Homstad said.

The requests affect residents in 60 counties, particularly St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties, where FEMA wants a total of $7.1-million returned.

The agency has come under fire by lawmakers and others who accused it of paying millions of dollars to residents in areas unaffected by the hurricanes who made fraudulent claims, while others were in need.

Congress began investigating FEMA at the request of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., whose office took complaints from legitimate victims who did not get needed help.

FEMA has refused to provide details about who received the nearly $5.3-billion in aid money paid after four hurricanes slammed the state last year.

Three Gannett newspapers in Florida have sued in federal court for access to names and addresses of people who shared in the payments so the papers can investigate whether they were fair and equitable.

FEMA has recouped more than $5-million of the $30,283,945 it is seeking. Repayments as high as $50,000 are being requested.

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