Waivers granted for debts on disaster aid payments due to FEMA error following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Ike


There is good news for Gulf Coast citizens who required, requested and received FEMA disaster assistance following Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Ike and other natural disasters since late 2005. According to a recent government report,“FEMA has granted waivers for applicants in approximately 96 percent of the cases it has reviewed” in connection with the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act, or DARFA, enacted by Congress in December of 2011. DARFA gives those who have unfairly received Notice of Debt letters the possibility to have the debt waived. DARFA is a directive in response to FEMA error. For example, FEMA expedited the disaster assistance registration process during the extremely large number of applications flooding their processing systems in the aftermath of Katrina. To speed the processing of applications, FEMA turned off the internal controls, or electronic cross-referencing, which would check eligibility using the applicant's name, social security number, etc.

According to the Federal Register, “DARFA provides the Administrator of FEMA with the authority to waive certain debts arising from improper payments provided to disaster survivors for disaster survivors for disasters declared between August 28, 2005, and December 31, 2010.”

If you are a victim who registered for and was granted disaster assistance for Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike or other U.S. disasters between late August 2005 through 2010, and who received a notice of debt letter in connection with that assistance, a recent FEMA update provides important information for disaster survivors affected by the recoupment efforts who have not submitted debt waiver requests.

For more information about the DARFA directive, see the FEMA document“Waiving Debts Pursuant to the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act of 2011”.

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