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Controversy Continues over Post-Katrina Spending on Trailers

After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in August 2005, FEMA spent billions of dollars on trailers that served as temporary housing. As many of the trailers now sit vacant, the NewsHour reports on maintenance expenses and criticism of FEMA.

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  • JEFFREY KAYE, Reporter, KCET:

    Across southern Mississippi, some 27,000 trailers and mobile homes still house people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The homes are a reminder, not only of the storm's lingering impact, but of the continuing controversy over post-Katrina federal spending.

    Complaints about costs began right after Katrina, when FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, paid billions of dollars to buy and install 150,000 trailers throughout the Gulf Coast. Now, there's a new concern about the expense of maintaining trailers that are vacant.

  • MAYOR AARON LOTT, Lumberton, Mississippi:

    There's one right back there.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    Aaron Lott, mayor of Lumberton, Mississippi, says three of the 27 FEMA trailers in his small town are deserted.

  • MAYOR AARON LOTT:

    The maintenance contractor for the last eight months has not bothered to call FEMA and say, "There's no resident living in this camper." It don't even have water and power.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    There are at least 1,000 abandoned FEMA trailers in Mississippi, but there's little financial incentive to haul them away quickly, because the companies that do the towing also get monthly maintenance fees.

  • BARRY BARIA, Former FEMA Inspector:

    It's pretty easy to tell sometimes when the trailer's abandoned, and they should report it, but they don't, because they get paid per trailer.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    Until recently, Barry Baria worked as a FEMA inspector.

  • BARRY BARIA:

    … windows busted out in them. They've still got the preventative maintenance stuck in the door.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    Preventative maintenance what?

  • BARRY BARIA:

    That's their form they fill out. Yes, they have to leave a copy of it in the door.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    To say that they actually did it?

  • BARRY BARIA:

    Right.

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