Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the Bush administration violated the Constitution by denying aid to thousands of Gulf Coast residents who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Judge Leon ordered FEMA, whom he described as creating a “Kafkaesque” process, to resume payments immediately. The judge pointed out that the agency cut off rental aid without appropriate explanation, and obstructed applicants’ due process rights to correct errors or appeal government mistakes.
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.
720,590 households received rental assitance, but–as of October 19, only 33,889 remained eligible for assistance. Victim advocates maintain that FEMA has resisted calls to provide details about its programs to storm victims, and has created obstacles for those people to obtain government-mandated aid.
FEMA director David Paulison responded by saying he thought the agency had done “a good job.”