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Author Topic: FEMA Refuses To Pay for Hotel Damage by Evacuees
abbubmah
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"The beds are broke, the mattresses are soiled, the tables are broke -- everything,"

quote:
"They're (FEMA) the ones that said we couldn't kick them out. They're the ones that took responsibility -- financial responsibility -- for them," said Guidry. "So why shouldn't they take financial responsibility for the punitive damages that occurred?"


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Lotta Palaver
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Man, that sucks. I'm betting insurance is no help here either. If anything, they'll get their policy cancelled.

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abbubmah
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I'm still waiting for someone to do a story on the est. 200 new vehicles FEMA has had parked in my city since the storms. Presumably they were for relief operations, but most of them never moved.

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Sara at home
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First, a hijack:
This should probably go over on the "Don't use words if you don't know what they mean" thread.
quote:
"So why shouldn't they take financial responsibility for the punitive damages that occurred?"
Punitive damages? [/hijack]

Considering how much money has been flat wasted, it seems a shame that these businesses can't be reimbursed by FEMA. When you stop to consider that all those mobile homes were bought and are still sitting on rented space......... The water bought, hauled, stored and never distributed..........

What would have happened if the motel owners had refused to rent to evacuees? How long did the evacuees live in the motels? In some cases it was quite a long time, wasn't it? Shouldn't they have been moved to larger quarters more quickly (like the mobile homes?)? Is this going to cause a problem with finding housing for evacuees next time there is a disaster?

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abigsmurf
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maybe they should have registered the guests properly then gone after them for damage they caused? If they can't afford to pay, the insurance should cover it.

There's no excuse for guests to abuse the hospitality these hotels offered in this way. Also : did FEMA really not give these hotels any money? I would've thought being forced to fill a hotel for a week for unpaying customers would bankrupt a good number of private hotels

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GenYus
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abigsmurf, many of the evacuees may not have had credit cards or cash to be able to register properly. Also, someone who has no new address and may be living in a property they don't own with no durable goods is hard to collect money from.

Sara at home, regarding using words improperly:
quote:
"The beds are broke, the mattresses are soiled, the tables are broke -- everything," said Guidry.
So the beds don't have any money and the tables don't have any money?

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Roadie
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I see a few problems with this. One, as Sara pointed out, this may have ramifications on the next round of evacuees - and there will be a next round. Two, it is not fair that the owner(s) of these establishments should have to pay for damages beyond normal wear and tear. A stained mattress, maybe. Broken furniture, probably not.

This is why the domestic violence agency I volunteer for always pays for damages inflicted by anyone we send to a motel. If we didn't, the motel managers would stop providing motel rooms for our victims. As it is, they already go above and beyond by providing discounts, holding rooms on holiday weekends, extra security, monitoring activity (comings & goings), and confidentiality for us. A broken lamp is a small price to pay for a good working relationship.

Of course, because we are a small agency and very quick and flexible (not a huge FEMA bureaucracy), we immediately cut off clients that wreak havoc on motel property. That's no fun, but as a non-profit we cannot pay for someone to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage on our dime - victim or not.

Edit: Spelling

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wanderwoman
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I'm wondering about the news coverage of this. Besides this article I found one TV news item from a Baton Rouge station. Both sources state that "many hotels" are having this problem, but in both cases only one specific hotel is mentioned and only that hotel's manager is interviewed.

In the TV clip, FEMA is quoted as saying that damages are the responsibility of the state.

Now I'm not saying that FEMA shouldn't have some responsibility for damages incurred by evacuees, but how do we know that this one hotel isn't trying to remodel at the government's expense?

Assuming that FEMA has fully reimbursed the hotel for the occupancy of their rooms (and I'm pretty sure the manager would have mentioned it if they had not), that hotel no doubt was a lot fuller for a long period of time than they would have been otherwise. And daily use of the rooms is going to cause a lot of wear and tear that would have been accepted as a cost of doing business if the occupants had been anybody other than Katrina evacuees.

I don't know how many of the scenes of room damage from the TV clip are actually scenes of rooms in the middle of the remodeling process, but some obviously are. Given all this, along with the lack of information from other hotels, I'm not sure this isn't just another attempt to defraud FEMA, with the help of the media.

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Roadie
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I'd wonder, wanderwoman, the same thing about remodeling at the government's expense. And I'm sure that the hotel was more full than normal - but with occupancy comes additional expenses, such as staff and utilities. I have no problem with expecting the hotels to absorb normal wear and tear, just as they absorb the cost of additional staffing and utilities created by higher-than-normal occupancy if they were compensated for the rooms. But when there are other expenses - broken furniture, fixtures, or holes in the wall, the hotel should not have to take on those expenses, especially when they were barred by FEMA from taking the normal course of action to minimize the damages (eviction), or be compensated by the occupant due to their victim circumstances that they could have taken if you or I caused damages.

Of course since we don't know, as you pointed out, what the real extent of those damages are, it's hard to determine whether this is an attempt to defraud FEMA or an attempt to be compensated for real damages that go beyond normal wear and tear.

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abbubmah
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The hotel owners ahd no choice in allowing the evacuees in. And, as for being "full", the problem this causes is there is no available rooms for travellers, which hurts regular business.

And, as Roadie pointed out, the hotels COULD NOT evict tenants. In fact, there was much protesting by the tenants whenever a deadline would come up that would force them to either pay themselves, or be evicted.

There have been many local news items about this since the storms. It is a real problem. I think FEMA has done an extraordinary job of wasting taxpayer money around here... however, this is a road they started down, and I think they should finish it by taking care of damages caused by their enforcement of temporary housing.

ham "next, maybe we can get them to just melt that Louisiana ice they're storing in Maine" bubba

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wanderwoman
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quote:
I'd wonder, wanderwoman
[lol] For some reason that phrase just struck me funny!

I agree with your points. I would like to hear from some other hotels that had this problem before drawing a conclusion.

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Sara at home
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quote:
Originally posted by wanderwoman:
Now I'm not saying that FEMA shouldn't have some responsibility for damages incurred by evacuees, but how do we know that this one hotel isn't trying to remodel at the government's expense?

The second FEMA or any other agency agrees to pay damages, there will be some hotel/motel owners/managers trying to remodel on the taxpayer dime. Just like every other group of people has individuals who will lie, cheat, steal and take advantage when they can, so does the subset of the population which owns/manages motels and hotels.

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Simply Madeline
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This memo is from the American Hotel and Lodging Association website.

Not sure how many of the suggested clauses made it into the FEMA contracts, but apparently, reimbursement for damages was at least discussed at some point.

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Malruhn
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My mother is presently in New Orleans, working for FEMA to get the evacuees out of trailers. Entire lots of trailers are being condemned as "uninhabitable by humans" due to the living conditions in them... created by the residents. With complete furniture, and electrical and water/sewer hookups, the residents are leaving them gutted of any and all wire, aluminum, piping (even PVC piping!!), and covered with filth (both dirt as well as fecal matter). However, as the residents are driving away in their Acuras and Lexuses, you can always see the pile of electronics in the form of stereos, speakers, radios, mixers, sound-systems, satellite dishes and furniture...

Only in rare cases does she see families leaving with clothing and "household" stuff... and those families are invariably the ones that leave the trailers in pristine condition.

She is processing between seven and eleven trailers a day... and is happy if she has ONE trailer that might be used by humans again.

It is no surprise that the ingrates of the refugees are trashing hotel rooms. It is that group of trash that doesn't care.

I pity the small percentage that DOES care and is catching blame for the larger group.

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wanderwoman
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Do you have a source for any of this besides your mother?

And can you explain exactly what it is about the majority of residents in New Orleans that makes you think they are a "group of trash that doesn't care", but who happen to drive Acuras and Lexuses (Lexi?).

Sorry, I just don't buy it without further evidence. Too much of this kind of thing has been said without any kind of substantiation. I think Katrina victims have been trashed more than enough already without adding yet another vicious rumor.

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Roadie
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quote:
Originally posted by wanderwoman:
quote:
I'd wonder, wanderwoman
[lol] For some reason that phrase just struck me funny!
It did me, too. I left it in to see if anyone else would laugh! [lol]

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abbubmah
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More, same hotel.

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wanderwoman
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Isn't there more than one hotel in Baton Rouge? [Razz]

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abbubmah
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Not anymore... [Big Grin] They were all destroyed by evacuees.

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wanderwoman
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quote:
There have been many local news items about this since the storms. It is a real problem.
Can you link to some of those? I am probably not using the right search terms, I am having trouble finding them. Thanks! [Smile]

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abbubmah
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When I say "local", I mean it. TV and newspaper. Not all of the stuff makes it to the web, let me see what I can find.

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I saw Mommy kismet Santa Claus
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Another anecdote, but supports what others have said. My sil is an apartment manager and her boss volunteered some apartments for evacuees in Houston. This was a new apartment complex, the apartments were freshly built, freshly painted. Every apartment lived in by evacuees but one had ruined carpet and needed fresh paint when they left. Some had more serious damage.

The thing is, wanderwoman, it doesn't mean that every New Orleans resident was trash. A lot of the evacuees had a support network of family and friends, and they went and stayed with relatives or something. Many evacuees got jobs quickly in new areas and put their lives back together. When you look at a group that had no family or friends to help them and were still unable to provide for themselves after many months, you get a disproportional number of trashy people.

This was very evident in Houston, where a huge number of evacuees ended up. The first week, all kinds of people were living in shelters. But after a month or so, many evacuees with initiative had made some progress in getting back on their feet. They were getting jobs and homes and enrolling their kids in school. Some people took longer than others even with effort, and of course they still feel the effects of the storm even if they have put some semblance of order back in their lives. But some people have made no effort to take care of themselves, and these people were eventually the majority of those receiving aid.

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wanderwoman
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quote:
Originally posted by kismet:
Another anecdote, but supports what others have said. My sil is an apartment manager and her boss volunteered some apartments for evacuees in Houston. This was a new apartment complex, the apartments were freshly built, freshly painted. Every apartment lived in by evacuees but one had ruined carpet and needed fresh paint when they left. Some had more serious damage.

The thing is, wanderwoman, it doesn't mean that every New Orleans resident was trash. A lot of the evacuees had a support network of family and friends, and they went and stayed with relatives or something. Many evacuees got jobs quickly in new areas and put their lives back together. When you look at a group that had no family or friends to help them and were still unable to provide for themselves after many months, you get a disproportional number of trashy people.

This was very evident in Houston, where a huge number of evacuees ended up. The first week, all kinds of people were living in shelters. But after a month or so, many evacuees with initiative had made some progress in getting back on their feet. They were getting jobs and homes and enrolling their kids in school. Some people took longer than others even with effort, and of course they still feel the effects of the storm even if they have put some semblance of order back in their lives. But some people have made no effort to take care of themselves, and these people were eventually the majority of those receiving aid.

I have read and heard too many unsubstantiated or outright false rumors about the rudeness and slovenliness of Katrina victims to just believe unsupported antecdotes. Snopes documents this incident, for instance, and I've heard others that turned out to be exaggerated or false.

And Malruhn wasn't talking about the same group of people you are talking about. He's talking about people who made it back to New Orleans and are living in FEMA trailers.

It seems clear that some people feel they gain something by assuming the worst about New Orleans Katrina victims, to the point where they fabricate or exaggerate incidents that put evacuees in the worst light. I don't know why they do this, but it has made me wary of anything I hear that is not supported by something more substantial than an anecdote. Numbers would be nice, actually.

Edited to fix link

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Simply Madeline
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quote:
Originally posted by abbubmah:
When I say "local", I mean it. TV and newspaper. Not all of the stuff makes it to the web, let me see what I can find.

Oh, come on. I grew up in a tiny farming community in the middle of nowhere, and my home town newspaper has had an online edition for at least five years.

ETA: Here's a list of LA newspapers available online. I picked 4 at random and did a search on 'hotel'+'damage', and one of them returned stories on the same hotel referenced above. The others gave me nothing.

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abbubmah
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Yes, that's what I'm finding.

There have been several items on TV, but I haven't been able to locate a copy online yet. The paper that I linked to above seems to have the worst search feature I have used in years...

Anecdotal - a new housing development here was protesting a supposedly closed trailer park that was next to the development. Seems the park was reopened by the owner to allow FEMA trailers. 50 of them. The homeowners were so concerned about "those people" moving in, they were seeking legal action.

Well, "those people" moved in. Everybody met. The homeowners have been steadily helping them out, and were even planning a neighborhood bar-b-que! Turns out, "those people" weren't "those people" after all.

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abbubmah
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Video of tough evictions & damage.

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wanderwoman
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quote:
Originally posted by abbubmah:
Video of tough evictions & damage.

See, I can understand wanting people out if FEMA has stopped paying for the room and nobody else is paying either. I can also understand wanting somebody out if they are trashing the room.

What I object to is the generalization of the behavior of some "bad apples" to the whole group. Your video showed that people were not happy to be told to leave and were resisting, but also showed just one trashed room - and I assume this would be the worst one - (and granted, it was pretty bad) - that was supposed to demonstrate that this is a common thing.

The video I linked to earlier that was related to your OP included some scenes of rooms that were in the process of being remodeled, and some of the "damage" was clearly part of the remodeling process. What's up with that?

When people are willing to distort the facts in this way, what are we to believe? What's in it for people who seem to want to prove that New Orleans Katrina victims are mostly lazy slobs?

Well, I can at least guess at the motive for the hotel in the OP, they might want to remodel and have the government pick up the check. Nice try, but as a taxpayer I demand better documentation of their claims.

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Sara at home
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quote:
Originally posted by abbubmah:
Video of tough evictions & damage.

Rock and a hard place.

The people need to move. They don't appear to have jobs. They likely have no income or very little. The area they call home in NO isn't inhabitable from what I hear. What is the job situation down that way? I've always had a car; how do you find a place to live if you don't have a car? Or money?

I wonder about the cleanliness of the rooms. Was maid service provided? Were cleaning supplies provided if maid service wasn't? Is some of the damage done on the way out by people who are angry about being evicted? If the damage was going on all along, why didn't maids report it and management get upset months ago? Or weren't the evacuees getting maid service? Was FEMA paying the same rates as someone getting maid service?

I can understand the people wanting to stay. I can understand the management wanting them to go.

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Roadie
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quote:
Originally posted by Simply Madeline:
quote:
Originally posted by abbubmah:
When I say "local", I mean it. TV and newspaper. Not all of the stuff makes it to the web, let me see what I can find.

Oh, come on. I grew up in a tiny farming community in the middle of nowhere, and my home town newspaper has had an online edition for at least five years.
I live in a county of less than 20K - we have one newspaper, printed 3 times per week, and one cable news show. Neither are on line. What's so hard to believe?

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Sara at home
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quote:
Originally posted by Roadie:
quote:
Originally posted by Simply Madeline:
quote:
Originally posted by abbubmah:
When I say "local", I mean it. TV and newspaper. Not all of the stuff makes it to the web, let me see what I can find.

Oh, come on. I grew up in a tiny farming community in the middle of nowhere, and my home town newspaper has had an online edition for at least five years.
I live in a county of less than 20K - we have one newspaper, printed 3 times per week, and one cable news show. Neither are on line. What's so hard to believe?
I live in a county with close to 300,000 people served by a newspaper and a TV station. Both are on line. Newspaper articles are up for 24 hours. That's it. Unless you already have the link, you can't get to the article 25 hours later. And access to much of the site is restricted to on line subscribers. As a paper subscriber, I can't access some articles on line.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

Posts: 8317 | From: Reading, PA | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Simply Madeline
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quote:
Originally posted by Roadie:
I live in a county of less than 20K - we have one newspaper, printed 3 times per week, and one cable news show. Neither are on line. What's so hard to believe?

Apparently, I over-estimate the pervasiveness of online access to news.

However, it's hard to believe that of the 40-some newspapers in Louisiana that have online editions, the only mention I can find of Katrina evacuees damaging hotel rooms is the same one linked to in the OP.

I'm leaning towards "guy trying to get the government to pay for his remodeling", myself.

Posts: 763 | From: Chicago | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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