St. Landry

Jun 27, 2011 11:31 PM by Maddie Garrett

FEMA Wants Town of Washington to repay $72,100

The mayor of Washington is under fire by State government for money given to the town to pay for Katrina evacuees. But Mayor Joe Pitre isn't backing down, and his citizens are standing behind him.

After Hurricane Katrina, the small town of Washington was flooded with evacuees.

"There was a center, two centers open here in Washington. However they weren't large enough to house all of the people that were coming in, so we were asked to open our homes to these people," said Barbara Durand.

Durand said she took in 10 evacuees for nearly two weeks, and others around town did the same.

"We opened our homes to them with the intention that we were going to get reimbursed, but this has never happened, we have never gotten anything from it," she said.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) did pay $72,100 to the town of Washington in November 2005.

"The money has always been there, but the authorization to write the checks were never given," said Mayor Pitre.

Pitre and residents in Washington said that $72,100 is still just sitting in a non-interest accruing account at the Washington State Bank. They said it was never distributed to the people as promised.

"Well if the money is there I think it should be paid out to the people, because the people did help out a lot," said Washington resident Dorothy Jobert.

So why weren't the funds distributed, and why does the government want them back?

GOHSEP gave this response to KATC in an email:

"Payment totaling $72,100.00 was made by GOHSEP (grantee) to the Town of Washington (sub-grantee) on November 22, 2005. This total represented the $70,000.00 federal share obligated by FEMA and a $2,100.00 administrative allowance. This payment was made as an expedited payment. FEMA regulations require the sub-grantee to provide to the grantee documentation to support costs for actual eligible work performed and show evidence that those costs are eligible expenditures.

The Town of Washington failed to provide sufficient documentation to support actual eligible work performed. On August 24th, 2009, FEMA de-obligated the project worksheet. The sub-grantee was notified on November 6th, 2009 of the necessity to remit $72,100.00 plus any accrued interest back to GOHSEP. As the grantee, GOHSEP is responsible for disbursing and reclaiming any funds related to the Project Worksheets obligated by FEMA. So far, that money has not been recouped."

But Pitre said he did fill out the proper forms and affidavits, and said he still wants to distrubute the FEMA money to the citizens of Washington.

"Documentation was submitted at least five times to five different representatives from FEMA. Now obviously as I've told you before, it got approved but by the time they were supposed to send documentation to allow me to write the checks they never did it," said Pitre.

When asked if he was going to repay the $72,100, Pitre did not give a direct answer. However, he did say he has appealed to Louisiana Legislators to help him settle the case.

 

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