The federal agency coordinating the government’s response to Hurricane Ida has denied the “rumor” that it is providing shelter for displaced survivors of the powerful storm in Louisiana and is instead encouraging them to apply for “possible” help online.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, more commonly referred to as FEMA, even set up a “rumor control page” on its website to address and debunk unconfirmed reports about the evacuation process in Louisiana, which suffered widespread damage to homes and other structures, power outages and massive flooding.
It was not clear how ow when the “rumor” began that “FEMA is paying for hotels in Louisiana due to the recent storm,” but the agency tweeted on Monday that it was “false.” Instead, the agency pointed people in need of shelter to its website, where they “may apply for FEMA assistance online.” They can also call a toll-free number at 1-800-621-3362.
Replies to FEMA’s tweets suggested the agency was tone-deaf and possibly on the verge of repeating its missteps 16 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the same area and decimated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
One person on Twitter asked why FEMA was not paying for displaced people to stay in hotels: “Isn’t this a disaster? Aren’t people being told to flee their homes?”
Another responded with telling sarcasm: “A country that allows a single person to rake in enough money to take a leisure trip to space while many struggle will also not take care of those in need during a natural disaster.”
Yet another reply drew attention to the looming eviction moratorium: “So you’re gonna make the homelessness crisis worse, great.”
It was unclear how many families and individuals have been displaced because of Hurricane Ida. However, what is known is that there are definitely people in dire need of shelter immediately who seem to be looking for the government to do more than what its offered.
Evacuation orders were given last week, but those without the means to do so — including the homeless, low-income and/or infirmed — were forced to remain to brave Hurricane Ida the best they could on their own.
One family of six that fled their home in suburban New Orleans fears they will run out of money paying for hotels out of their own pocket before they receive federal assistance that FEMA’s website makes clear is not guaranteed. With power outages that could linger for weeks and a tree that fell on top of their home making it inhabitable, they’re unsure how long they can last, ABC News reported.
That family is likely far from the only one in that kind of situation, making FEMA assistance that much more urgent.
The tweet from FEMA came after the New Orleans Police Department began deploying anti-looting officers even though it was determined that much of the so-called looting during Hurricane Katrina came because people were displaced and had no other means to feed themselves.
As mentioned, this isn’t the first hurricane that FEMA has responded to, making it less clear why a proper, streamlined plan hasn’t been put in place, let alone employed for a powerful storm that was anticipated for at least a full week.
Back in 2005 when Katrina hit, FEMA was seemingly caught off-guard and underestimated the storm, ultimately opening up New Orleans’ Superdome arena as a temporary — and inadequate — shelter. The lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina led to widespread criticism of the government, including rapper Kanye West’s notoriously saying during a live telethon to raise money for victims, that then-President “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”
Bush famously applauded then-FEMA Director Michael Brown at the time, saying “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”