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Watchdog report finds FEMA failed to effectively manage Hurricane Maria money, with Ian help coming

The inspector general made three reform recommendations to FEMA, but the agency did not concur with any of them.

Published: October 2, 2022 4:38pm

Updated: October 3, 2022 1:54pm

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did not effectively manage funding allocated for the 2017 Hurricane Maria response efforts, according a federal watchdog report released Monday.

The Homeland Security inspector general report found that FEMA is unable to ensure that at least $65 million in Maria recovery costs were adequately supported.

"FEMA did not have adequate internal controls for separation of duties, written policies and procedures for oversight when the state is not the recipient, or records management," the watchdog wrote.

The disaster relief agency did not require six Puerto Rico disaster relief organizations in the aftermath of Maria to provide supporting documentation for costs, and instead, FEMA gave $6.4 million in advance payments to the groups based on estimates rather than actual costs, the inspector general said. 

The storm struck the island as a Category 5 hurricane.

Additionally, the federal disaster relief agency did not have supporting documentation for $10.7 million 

FEMA is unable to ensure that a total of $65 million in costs is "adequately supported," the watchdog found.

The inspector general made three reform recommendations to FEMA, but the agency did not concur with any of them, stating that "it does not approve payments," among other things.

The findings come days after the Biden administration authorized federal emergency aid authorized FEMA to coordinate relief efforts in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

While it is unclear how much FEMA will spend on Hurricane Ian, the storm may have caused up to $47 billion in insured losses alone in Florida, according to the data firm CoreLogic.

FEMA made headlines for potential wasteful spending last month when another inspector general report estimated the agency lost more than $3.7 billion in fraudulent COVID relief payments.

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