FEMA Seeking Refunds from 6 Indiana Families Paid in Error

July 18, 2005

Six Hazleton, Indiaina families who received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following January flooding in their southwestern Indiana town are being asked to repay the money because of a computer error.

FEMA spokeswoman Linda Sacia said the checks were erroneously sent to families who live in or around the town of Hazleton, which flooded in January after a rain-swollen White River burst through a levee. But the town about 30 miles north of Evansville does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and was therefore ineligible to receive FEMA assistance.

“There was a typo,” Sacia said. “(Someone from FEMA) spelled the name of the community wrong.”

Sacia said the agency can do little to assist flooding victims who have no federal insurance.

“We can’t ignore our regulations,” Sacia said. “That’s why people are having the money recouped.”

The January flooding forced Becky Newlin from her home in Hazleton. She received a $3,500 aid check from FEMA for repairs and temporary housing, but last week she got a call from FEMA asking her to repay the money.

Newlin’s relatives said Becky Newlin had already spent the money and that repaying it would be a hardship.

Pam Bright, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said that the state agency would urge FEMA to let the families keep the money because “it was (FEMA’s) error, not the state’s error or the residents’.”

Sacia said people who mistakenly received FEMA money will be allowed to pay it back on a long-term, low-interest loan program that she described as “very liberal.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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