Since Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has spent over $300 million on short-term housing for evacuees. Now there are concerns FEMA may have paid too much, and that's not the only question about where your tax dollars have been going.
After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA paid for thousands of people to live in hotels and motels all over the country. The average daily rate was $60. But government records show FEMA also paid for some people to stay in Panama City beachfront condos at $375 a day.
FEMA negotiated with the property managers to drop the price, but the revelation has let a sour taste in some taxpayers’ mouths.
"I can understand the government assistance and FEMA assistance, but I think it's abuse now and it's been long enough and they need to find their own place to stay."
"I think people need a helping hand, especially in a disaster like that, but there's obviously some area for abuse, so I think there should be a cutoff point at some time."
While some of these evacuees are using that money to stay in some high priced condos on the beach, others are using that aid for something much different. Under FEMA's various aid programs, some victims receive as much as $26,000 for immediate emergency needs.
Here's some of what your money bought:
$700 in traffic tickets
Someone even posted partial bail bond with FEMA money.
There were seven ATM withdrawals totaling thousands for gambling:
A diamond engagement ring
A $1,200 bill at a strip club
A $1,300 gun.
FEMA is investigating these cases for possible fraud.
"We made this decision to try and provide immediate assistance for them and we feel like that was the right thing to do, that being said we're working very closely with the DHS inspector general and members of the Katrina fraud task force to prosecute any fraudulent cases to the fullest extent of the law."
Outside of Panama City Beach, FEMA paid about$400 a night for rooms in Chicago and $438 a night for a New York City hotel.
Not all of these items were bought here in Bay County. It's just a sample of items nationwide.