Governor Rick Perry is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help Texas recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He outlined his complaints in a letter to homeland security director Michael Chertoff Tuesday. Meantime, Lubbock is still dealing with the aftermath of hurricane relief. For the top three spenders in Lubbock's hurricane relief effort, federal paperwork is still a full-time job.
The Lubbock Sheriff's Office, University Medical Center and the City of Lubbock spent more than $2.7 million taxpayer dollars housing and caring for hurricane evacuees. Now they're making sure they get that money back in the city and county coffers... no matter how low it takes. Lt. Kevin Overstreet says, "Lots of paperwork... lots of paperwork."
The Sheriff's Office is busy maintaining a paper trail and organizing records of their expenditures... about $150,000 for Katrina and Rita combined. Overtime makes up about $60,000 of that, and the rest Lt. Overstreet says, "We sent about 19 officers to Port Arthur. They were gone three weeks. Those expenditures are roughly going to be $75,000 to $100,000." The Sheriff's Department has its Katrina paperwork is in the bag. They still have Rita left to go.
In the meantime another county agency, University Medical Center just finished it all on Monday! Spokesperson Greg Bruce says, "Our biggest involvement in both of those was staffing Lubbock EMS. Remember when the evacuees landed, there were a group of ambulances there and paramedics on the scene to assess health needs."
Overall, UMC $15,000. Now they'll sit back and wait to see it again. Bruce says, "I think it's a very slow process and very frustrating for people to deal with. It could be weeks or months at best."
For the city it could be more than a year. The city footed the largest part of the bill mostly in overtime and housing costs, $1.7 million for Katrina and more than $900,000 for Rita. The city gave evacuees purchasing cards and statements from those continue to come in. That along with continued housing costs make it difficult to compile paperwork. "From the taxpayer's standpoint, it's important to get reimbursed and offset the impact on local tax payers."
Another reason it will take so long for the city to be fully reimbursed, it will be subject to FEMA audits. Those audits will make sure the city spent everything it said it did and that it was necessary.
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