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FEMA Investigation, Katrina Evacuees Face Deadline

An investigation finds that millions of FEMA dollars may have been wasted. As of last week, the Red Cross estimates 47 hotel rooms in north Florida still house evacuees displaced by last year's hurricanes.

Many of them now have to be out.

Chris Floyd of the Capital Area Red Cross says, "We've gone to the hotels interfacing with the individuals that are still residing in those hotels and are showing the opportunities that still exist for housing here in Leon County."

A judge says the federal government will no longer have to directly pay for hotel rooms, which has led to protests by evacuees in New Orleans on a day with FEMA front and center.

A government audit says the agency paid too much for some hotel rooms used to house survivors and issued emergency cash to as many as 900,000 people who didn't qualify for it.

Sen. Susan Collins, (R) Maine, says, "I just am at a loss to understand why these basic safeguards weren't built into the system."

Federal prosecutors have filed fraud and theft charges against more than 200 people accused of trying to scam the federal government out of money and benefits, but in north Florida the focus remains on those who have legally relied on FEMA.

Floyd adds, "The whole idea here is to truly get people into a more permanent housing situation."

The Red Cross says they will continue to work with other area organizations to find housing for evacuees looking to stay in the Big Bend. Many evacuees still in FEMA funded hotel rooms have been given extensions on a case by case basis.


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