I’ve been meaning to discuss FEMA and its actions for a while now. Recently there was severe flooding around the Binghamton area. Several towns were decimated and homes in many communities are unlivable. FEMA has come to ‘help’ in this crisis. I have lived through one disaster in which FEMA was involved. We all have heard about the fiasco that was the agency’s actions in New Orleans.
My own experience came from the Northridge earthquake in California. I lived at the time in Woodland Hills, which is close to Northridge. When the earthquake hit, it felt as if a freight train going 100 was passing by my face. I wasn’t unnerved, the experience left me in shock for a couple of days. Like all my neighbors and others in the surrounding area, any large thumping sound, like a car door being slammed, was all I needed to have my heart racing and my eyes wide in fear. Those who know me well are familiar on how extreme a reaction that was for me. For some it was far worse, and I do recall entire families sleeping in tents outside their homes a month after the quake.
FEMA came into town and provided finances to help people get essentials, and replace damaged/destroyed items. I was renting a house at the time, and had some damage, neighbors in the area owned their homes and had similar damage. FEMA basically gave out vouchers to anyone who asked for one. The vouchers were to allow you to stay in a hotel for a time. Claims made by everyone were approved, I know of no one who was denied anything they mentioned was destroyed or damaged. I am personally unfamiliar with FEMA having done anything else besides handing out checks and temporary hotel stays. And for those that don’t recall the quake was disputedly a 7.2 RICHTER intensity (some data at the time stated that it could have been as high as 7.8 or more but was held back by the government as any area hit with a quake of that magnitude would not pay taxes – Northridge and the surrounding area is L.A. suburbs.
No real help in getting thru the situation, but very good at dispersing money. That’s what I’d say about FEMA, from my own experience. And it’s not that far off from what we saw in New Orleans. Though far more disorganized, FEMA did get some people into hotels and cruise line ships (at 3-5x the normal cruise rates). Of course the overwhelming numbers were without food or shelter. The failures of the agency have been noted very well so I won’t dwell on the facts. Suffice to say even less help than I had recalled in my experiences.
And the latest event in Broome County NY. Again the main thing has been monies to help out those in need. Except few have gotten the funds they need. I am familiar with families that have homes which are unlivable, and FEMA only provided them $500 for help. I have heard of denials to put people into hotels and other facilities, while they have no other place to turn to. And there is a constant stream of people that claim FEMA is pinching pennies everywhere.
I’ve mentioned all this to say a few things. In over a decade FEMA seems to have done less for people in each disaster that occurs. That isn’t about race, at least not directly, but it is about bad policy in the government. Several Presidents have picked under-qualified individuals for this position, the result of which has been damaged lives. Funding seems to be the next issue. From extremes of turning no one down, to wasting funds on needed housing at ludicrous prices, to now cutting corners on what is essential and what value is right. What is it they are doing? How hard is it for a government agency, whose purpose is to help those struck by natural disasters, to fulfill its mission?
Is politics so important that doing their job is a secondary concern? And I don’t mean the men and women on the ground trying to assist people. I mean the bosses that allocate funds and set the tone of what will be done or what is acceptable. I hardly think its too much to ask for a qualified group of people actual do their jobs when so many lives are at stake.
Perhaps I’m not seeing the whole picture. Who else has had direct, or second-hand experience with FEMA? I don’t see this as racial, at least not in the past as the quake area had people of all types there. While the flooding affected a far less racially diverse population it has been a mess, though not to the levels of New Orleans. Or was it that my first-hand experience was lucky enough to have happened in a economically strong area? If so it is very sad. I’d love to hear feedback.