FEMA funds used improperly

Sarah Simon, Contributing Reporter

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

This month, we look back at Hurricane Katrina. This period is remembered for two aspects of reconstruction: objectively terrible federal policy and heroic grassroots humanitarian aid.

At Tulane University, the rebuild was funded by a $36.1 million audit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This money was provided early on with the intention of getting Tulane up and running again as quickly as possible. Even with a city in shambles and thousands of people displaced, substantial federal grants were allocated to this private university.

And indeed, six months later Tulane was re-opened for spring semester.

Years later, people began to notice an issue with this deal. Of the audit, $13 million was unaccounted for. After an open investigation, FEMA uncovered that this discrepancy mainly came from a scam from Belfor, a contracting company specializing in disaster relief.

The main issue in this situation, however, was not how well the state of Louisiana monitored Tulane’s spending as they rebuilt with the federal grant. The problem was that this money was granted in the first place.

Despite the substantial aid that Tulane benefitted from, taxpayer dollars should not be presented to a private university. It is not the federal government or FEMA’s responsibility to fund a private institution.

While FEMA argued that Tulane had misused $13 million in funds, in reality FEMA misused $36.1 million. America and FEMA had other responsibilities that deserved holistic focus. New Orleans’ infrastructure was decimated and this state of disorder extended along the Gulf coast.

In the years since the storm, Tulane students have been helpful in giving back to New Orleans. They were among the ranks of people coming in to assist in reconstruction. They joined in the community and strove to rebuild. 

It took years for some areas to be restored. Had those funds been allocated to the city rather than the university, more could have been done. This is a quintessential case of the federal government not focusing properly on the task at hand. New Orleans had immense support, but not enough.

Tulane does not deserve federal audits. Tulane, as a private institution, is responsible for funding itself. New Orleans needed assistance and the government provided it, but clearly government spending during the rebuild was reckless and exorbitant.