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FEMA’s COVID-19 Funds worth Millions Went to Waste or Abuse

FEMA’s COVID-19 Funds worth Millions Went to Waste or Abuse

The COVID-19 health emergency brought an epidemic of fraud and theft of people’s money in various public institutions whose details are only now coming to surface. A recent official report shows that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wasted millions of dollars of COVID-19 emergency funds on questionable funeral expenses.

The report, titled “Ineffective Controls Over COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Leave the Program Susceptible to Waste and Abuse,” was released last month by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. It summarizes the results of an audit of the Inspector General’s office into the expenditure under FEMA’s Funeral Assistance program over a period of 6 months (April to September) in 2021.

The results show over $26 million questionably spent under the program. Of these, an estimated $24.4 million was spent on for applicants’ ineligible funeral expenses. These include money spent on obituaries, flowers, catering services, and gratuities that were billed as “necessary expense” or “serious need” by the funeral homes but didn’t meet the official criteria of such expenses. Overpayments and payments for fraudulent claims were also part of the wasteful spending. The report noted:

During the same period above, FEMA issued $1.3 million in assistance payments to multiple parties applying for the same decedents and paid applicants more than the allowable maximum award, resulting in overpayments of $759,026.

The FEMA report doesn’t use the word ‘fraud” to refer to the funds spent questionably; instead it uses the term “ineligible funeral expenses” many times throughout the report. RealClearWire, however, wrote that the report shows the FEMA program was “rife with fraud and mismanagement” that paid for literally anything listed on a funeral home’s invoice.

The report specifies that FEMA chose not to follow the recommendations of the Inspector General’s office on modifying its operating procedures to prevent waste of funds on ineligible expenses.

The report by the Inspector General’s office on waste of funds by FEMA’s funeral assistance program comes a year after FEMA deputy regional administrator Ahsha Tribble pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud in the case of a federal government program to restore Puerto Rico’s electric power grid after Hurricane Maria of 2017. Tribble traded gifts (gratuities) with Donald Ellison, president of an Oklahoma-based energy company, to “get involved in redesigning an electrical grid in Vieques, Puerto Rico” as reported by NBC News.  Originally, both Tribble and Ellison were charged in 2019 with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, but their charges were reduced to exchange of gratuities as part of a plea deal.

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  1. Lyudmila

    The funds were not wasted: they were simply transferred from FEMA to other hands : – Suddenly, unexpectedly, PHARMA and WHO, Fauci and Gates became much richer! – That’s where the money is now. In nature, nothing disappears or appears from nothing.

  2. frank stetson

    Ludy, if that was sarcasm, very good.

    If you were serious, come on man, stop the malarky….. Any idiot could hit a couple of searches and so far, I see either 2,200 defendants or 3,000. Not sure if the unemployment scams were not lumped in the 2,200 and don’t really care.

    Fact is my estimate would be 10% and there it is: it’s about 10% grift. Medicare is about 7.5%, including billing errors. Medicaid is over 15% but don’t blame the poor. Medicare fraud is institutional from large corporations to criminal health care operations, to individual doctors, patients, and non-subscribers. We could have stifle benefit reductions if we fixed it. Most Medicare fraud SS is under 1%. Welfare is 13%, mostly institutional again. SNAP is around 1% Let’s see if we can put a correlation cap of this Ludy —– where is the most theft — individual or group? New things or old things (spoiler alert: trick question). Unpaid taxes at about 16% oop’s from all of us because we no cheat. Chance are the theft is where larger organizations can be involved for EITHER long term or short term large-scale distributions. Thus, covid — large, fast, really large and fast, with potential for larger organizations (business, doctors, whatevever), and you got duck soup. And before anyone yells about persecution of the doctors, —– could be companies pretending to be professional when, indeed, they were criminals, some with medical degrees.

    I honestly looked because I thought one shop cleaned it up but it was either SNAP or SS and they have always been low I think.

    Ludy, the bottom line is when a business cheat and fraud can become a beloved President, shouldn’t we all want to act “presidential?” (sacrasm serve, return volley).

    My take is given the speed of distribution, 10% is par for the course however the trauma on the national psyche is higher for covid criminals preying on the pandemic. Yet Medicare is doctors, welfare is business, yet the SNAP food payments to individuals are rarely scammed.

    I am glad we are focusing, hope we catch more, and then I hope they apply lessons learned to the other areas.