NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2006

It's good to see the government taking steps to prevent a repeat of the post-Katrina aid fraud.  But the reforms won't stick without an attitude change, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

We should start with the attitude of learned helplessness, which left much of New Orleans' welfare-dependent population unprepared to deal with the basic business of survival.  Then there is the attitude of entitlement, which showed up in some early criticism of new rules for disaster aid at the Department of Homeland Security, says IBD.

  • The department, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is cutting initial, unrestricted aid for future disasters to $500 from $2,000.
  • Also, FEMA will grant emergency cash assistance only after checking computer records to make sure applicants aren't double-dipping, using false Social Security numbers or fake addresses.
  • Families also would have to register with FEMA before moving into free hotel rooms.

These rules are designed to prevent the sort of fraud that marked the giveaway after Katrina.  Government auditors say as much as $1.4 billion of the $5.4 million in cash aid handed out after that hurricane may have been misspent on items such as diamond rings and sex videos.

If there's one moral to the disaster-aid story, it's that you can't stress the message of self-reliance too much.  To do so, unfortunately, the government has to get used to saying "no" more often and demanding some evidence of eligibility and need from those who claim to deserve aid.  It's making a good start in that direction with its new aid procedures, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "A Flintier FEMA?" Investor's Business Daily, July 28, 2006.


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