Landrieu Urges FEMA to Keep Promise to College Students
Asks FEMA director not to take back assistance granted to students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
WASHINGTON — United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Director R. David Paulison to express her disappointment over FEMA's recent decision to recoup funding that had been granted to college students in Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Many dormitories at Louisiana colleges were flooded and some of them burned down. Students lost books, clothing, computers and other personal necessities and some had to go to colleges out of state after the storms closed their schools. Like other hurricane victims, students applied for and received expedited assistance to cover housing and other needs. FEMA dispersed the aid, but the agency has recently begun sending intimidating letters to students demanding that the assistance be returned.
"When FEMA granted expedited assistance to college students, it was an example of a federal agency stepping up appropriately to provide for the victims in the aftermath of a major disaster," Sen. Landrieu said. "But now FEMA has broken yet another promise, taking money away from college students that are in no financial position to repay grants that they received more than a year ago. There is no fair justification for taking money away from those who need it most, and I hope FEMA changes course and stops bullying Louisiana's students with intimidating letters demanding repayment."
Aid to students after disasters is not unprecedented. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FEMA came to the aid of students attending New York University by reimbursing students who were unable to access their dormitories for clothing, textbooks and computers. But, despite the permanent damage that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused, students who were victims of the storms and received assistance are now being required to give it back.
"It is inexplicable why FEMA would not offer such assistance and courtesies to Louisiana students after the most horrendous natural disaster in the history of our country," Sen. Landrieu wrote in her letter to Paulison. "It is further beyond my comprehension how FEMA could rule that the physical place where these students were spending much of their time living and sleeping was not a primary residence without actually evaluating each circumstance…
"It seems incomprehensible that more than a year after the hurricanes, FEMA would send out intimidating letters, with little explanation, demanding that the money be repaid or face fines and penalties.
"To ensure every proper consideration is being provided to impacted Louisiana students and to ease their own burdens of recovery, I respectfully request that any debt owed to you by a student from an impacted university be forgiven, except in circumstances of intentional fraud," Sen. Landrieu wrote.
The full text of Sen. Landrieu's letter is available here.