Opinion Pieces

FEMA's Role in Excessive Government Waste

Frequently, as Congress works through a new budget, people mostly talk about all the seemingly-wonderful programs the government can fund.

But, time and time again, the federal government proves its inability to do things right when it comes to spending taxpayer money.

One such example of this is how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a well-meaning organization, uses government funds to house displaced families and individuals after disasters.

FEMA purchases Manufactured Housing Units (MHUs), more commonly known as mobile homes, to provide temporary housing after emergencies like the Baton Rouge flood in August of 2016. Each of the MHUs cost approximately $130,000-$150,000 to purchase, install and maintain for an individual or family to live in for a year and a half.

FEMA does not reuse these mobile homes, preferring to donate or sell them.

The government is losing millions of taxpayer dollars on these types of deals - especially as FEMA plans to deactivate 4,350 of the mobile homes used after the Louisiana flood in the near future.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR) Chairman Jason Chaffetz has sent letters to FEMA’s Acting Administrator and contractors involved in the flood recovery requesting updates on the continued problems with these MHUs, and the OGR Committee, which I serve on, will continue to follow this issue.

I wish I could be surprised at this level of government waste, but through my position on the OGR Committee, I realize just how common it is: 

-          Almost $2.6 billion worth of improper payments were given out in the nation’s food stamp program during Fiscal Year 2015. Some recipients falsified information to receive benefits they weren’t actually eligible for, while other individuals sold their food stamps for cash, or traded them for non-food services. Such abuse led to the food stamp program being designated a high-error program.

-          Last year, the OGR Committee questioned officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about an investigation that found the agency wasted $18.3 million paying its workers for time they couldn’t prove they worked – proving what people already know about the federal government’s work ethic.

-          Currently, the federal government owns the most real property in the United States. The operating costs of the government’s 273,000 buildings, a portion of which are vacant, exceed $18.7 billion.

And these are just a few of the countless examples of government waste, abuse and fraud.

It’s just further proof that the federal government should have less control of taxpayer money, not more. As I continue to serve on this oversight committee, I will keep working to investigate and eliminate such rampant government waste.

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