A Broken FEMA (Yes, Again)

As we pointed out in August, the Health and Human Services Commission figures there are about 251,000 Katrina evacuees still living in Texas--66,000 of whom ended up in North Texas. Most are African-American; most are women; most are making very little money. And yesterday, a federal judge ruled that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Bush administration had screwed many of them out of money needed just to pay rent. In his 19-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon wrote that FEMA cut off aid to Katrina evacuees in February without saying why and "hindered applicants' due-process rights to fix errors or appeal government mistakes," as The Washington Post puts it this morning.

"It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights," Leon wrote. "Free these evacuees from the 'Kafkaesque' application process they have had to endure." He wants FEMA to restore payments immediately; FEMA, naturally, says it's considering appealing the judge's ruling.

There is other good news for Katrina evacuees living here: Saturday they're invited to the Adam's Mark Hotel at 8:30 a.m. to join in a satellite link-up with evacuees living in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Houston and New Orleans. They're being asked to join the "Community Congress" that will offer suggestions for the future of their city; it's part of the Unified New Orleans Plan created by New Orleans Mayor Mayor C. Ray Nagin, the New Orleans City Council and the New Orleans City Planning Commission. Its mission is to "include all neighborhoods in the planning of the city's large scale infrastructure needs," UNOP says on its Web site, which is where folks need to go if they want to attend Saturday's event. That said, there's also this flier that can be printed and posted, if you know New Orleans residents who don't have Web access. --Robert Wilonsky