A FEMA program to reimburse applicants for generators and storm cleanup items has benefited middle- and upper-income Floridians the most and has so far cost taxpayers more than $332 million for the past two hurricane seasons, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found in a continuing investigation of disaster aid.
What makes this so infuriating is that people know they're scamming the system but do it anyway.
Dr. Arthur Palamara of Hollywood, a vascular surgeon and candidate for the state House of Representatives, got an $836 check from FEMA for a generator he bought a week after Wilma, and he now is debating whether to cash it.
''My sons are giving me a hard time, saying, 'You don't really deserve the money,' " said Palamara, who lives in a home assessed at $1.1 million.
In 2004, eighty percent of the money went to applicants in middle- and upper-income areas. FEMA imposes no income restrictions, but leaves it up to the states to determine eligibility. It's interesting to note that Jeb Bush's Florida remains one of the most generous of the hurricane-vulnerable states, yet the Bush brothers and their Republican pals criticize the poor for living on the dole.