Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Unprecedented Challenges Exposed the Individuals and Households Program to Fraud and Abuse; Actions Needed to Reduce Such Problems in Future: GAO-06-1013

September 2006
GAO Reports;9/27/2006, p1
Government Document
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused unprecedented damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Individuals and Households Program (IHP), provides direct assistance (temporary housing units) and financial assistance (grant funding for temporary housing and other disaster-related needs) to eligible individuals affected by disasters. Our objectives were to (1) compare the types and amounts of IHP assistance provided to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita victims to other recent hurricanes, (2) describe the challenges FEMA faced by the magnitude of the requests for assistance following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and (3) determine the vulnerability of the IHP program to fraud and abuse. GAO determined the extent to which the program was vulnerability to fraud and abuse, by conducting statistical sampling, data mining and undercover operations. For Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA received more than 2.4 million applications for IHP assistance and distributed $7.0 billion as compared to the six hurricanes that hit the United States in the prior two years and totaled about 1.5 million applications and about $1.5 billion in assistance, respectively. Temporary housing assistance and expedited assistance accounted for much of the increase in IHP expenditures as compared to prior years. Overall, however, although the number of applications was much higher, the percentage approved for non-housing assistance was notably lower for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita than in 2003 and 2004. The magnitude of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita posed challenges in providing assistance to an unprecedented number of victims many of whom were widely dispersed across the country. To address these challenges, FEMA developed new approaches and adapted existing approaches to quickly provide assistance and improve communication with victims. Despite these efforts, management challenges in staffing and training and program restrictions limited the effectiveness and efficiency of the disaster assistance process. FEMA has proposed a number of initiatives to address these problems, but it is too early to determine whether these efforts will effectively address the problems identified. GAO identified the potential for significant fraud and abuse as a result of FEMA's management of the IHP in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Flaws in the registration process resulted in what GAO estimated to be between $600 million and $1.4 billion in improper and potentially fraudulent payments due to invalid registration data. In addition, duplicate payments were made and FEMA lacked accountability over $2,000 debit cards that were given to disaster victims.


Related Articles

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Disaster Relief: Continued Findings of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse: GAO-07-252T. Kutz, Gregory // GAO Reports;12/6/2006, p1 

    Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed homes and displaced millions of individuals. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to respond to this disaster, GAO's previous work identified significant control weaknesses--specifically in FEMA's Individuals and Households Program...

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Disaster Relief: Prevention Is the Key to Minimizing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Recovery Efforts: GAO-07-418T. Kutz, Gregory // GAO Reports;1/29/2007, p1 

    Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed homes and displaced millions of individuals. While federal and state governments continue to respond to this disaster, GAO has identified significant control weaknesses--specifically in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s Individuals and...

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Disaster Relief: Improper and Potentially Fraudulent Individual Assistance Payments Estimated to Be Between $600 Million and $1.4 Billion: GAO-06-844T.  // GAO Reports;6/14/2006, p1 

    Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed homes and displaced millions of individuals. In the wake of these natural disasters, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded to the need to provide aid quickly through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) program, which provides housing...

  • FEMA Grows to Include Peace Corps.  // Fire Chief;Nov2005, Vol. 49 Issue 11, p13 

    The article reports that for the first time, the Peace Corps is joining a disaster relief effort in the United States with 60 Crisis Corps volunteers. Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez has visited areas of Louisiana devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The volunteers will be working...

  • Greater Coordination and an Evaluation of Programs' Outcomes Could Improve Disaster Case Management.  // GAO Reports;7/20/2009, preceding p1 

    The article reports on the results of a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerning the federal government's disaster case management programs after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. GAO reviewed relevant laws and guidance and interviewed federal government...

  • Week in Review.  // New Orleans CityBusiness (1994 to 2008);1/7/2008, Vol. 28 Issue 25, p10 

    The article offers business news briefs in Louisiana. The Road Home program reached its 90,000 closings with homeowners who experienced property damage in the 2005 hurricanes. Mark Cooper has been appointed by Louisiana Governor-elect Bobby Jindal to head the Office of Homeland Security and...

  • FEMA Recognizes Reality. Singer, Paul // National Journal;9/16/2006, Vol. 38 Issue 37, p54 

    The article reports that outside groups are being allowed by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer services to the evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita at its trailer parks. The FEMA and the Save the Children aim to open community centers at the parks. The Robert T....

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Coordination between FEMA and the Red Cross Should Be Improved for the 2006 Hurricane Season: GAO-06-712. Fagnoni, Cynthia M. // GAO Reports;6/8/2006, p1 

    The Red Cross played a key role in providing relief to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, mounting its largest ever disaster response. Under the National Response Plan, and its emergency support function-6 (ESF-6), the Red Cross and FEMA are tasked with working together to coordinate...

  • FEMA'splanto reimburse churches draws criticism. Banks, Addle // Christian Century;10/18/2005, Vol. 122 Issue 21, p13 

    Reports on issues arising from the plan of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse religious groups that have offered relief to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Statement issued by FEMA on the decision of the government to repay the sheltering expenses of...


Read the Article

Other Topics