After Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm, collided with Puerto Rico, all of its 3.4 million residents were plunged into a desperate humanitarian crisis. Access to clean water and other essentials was reduced for months. To this day, roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s residents (approximately 1.2 million people) are still living in the dark.
To make matters worse, millions of emergency meals which were intended to be sent to the hurricane-ravaged island never arrived. This is because Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. agency responsible for disaster, hired a contractor that failed to meet its obligations.
According to records cited by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, a nearly $156 million contract was awarded to a one-person company by FEMA. So far, they’ve delivered just 50,000 of the expected 30 million meals.
The lawmakers claim that the company, Atlanta-based Tribute Contracting, has had a rocky history handling smaller government contracts worth less than $100,000. It has also been barred from government work until 2019. Tiffany Brown, a representative for Tribute and its owner, did not respond to requests for comment.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, commented that Tribute was awarded the contact in October 17. The deal was terminated 20 days later. Cummings wrote, “It is unclear why FEMA or any agency would have proceeded with a contract worth $156 million in light of this company’s poor contracting history and these explicit warnings.”
This isn’t the first Puerto Rico-related mess-up by FEMA. The agency also hired Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small Montana firm, to restore the island’s power despite a lack of experience. The deal was later cancelled by Montana’s governor, Ricardo Rossello.
Because of these failings, Cummings and Democrat Stacey Plaskett urged the panel’s Republican chairman, Trey Gowdy, to subpoena FEMA for documents on the company, as well as its supposed failure to deliver millions of meals. A spokesperson for Gowdy said that sending a subpoena was premature but that the panel would continue to review Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.
According to a spokesperson for FEMA, Puerto Rico “was not affected” by the terminated contract. Reportedly, meals continue to be provided on the island and “there are sufficient commodities both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland to continue to meet identified needs for current or future disasters.”
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news.
Image Credit: Fema Puerto Rico