Thursday, November 30, 2006

Let them suffer

Long after the waters have receded, the poor of the Gulf Coast are still being screwed by the Bush Cabal:

The Bush administration unconstitutionally denied aid to tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and must resume payments immediately, a federal judge ordered yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the Federal Emergency Management Agency created a "Kafkaesque" process that began cutting off rental aid in February to victims of the 2005 storms, did not provide clear reasons for the denials, and hindered applicants' due-process rights to fix errors or appeal government mistakes.

"It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights," Leon, a D.C. federal judge, wrote in a 19-page opinion.

"Free these evacuees from the 'Kafkaesque' application process they have had to endure," he wrote.

An example of the "Kafkaesque" nightmare:

According to Leon, FEMA issued "ambiguous and unintelligible" computer-generated denial letters that included "only a cryptic code and a phrase such as 'Ineligible-Other' " to explain why benefits were denied. Recipients were referred to a vague "Applicant Guide," which in turn referred them back to the "specific reason" in the letter.

Several evacuees told the court they received "contradictory and confusing" answers when they called FEMA for explanations. Plaintiffs "are unable to address, let alone intelligently appeal, decisions they cannot understand," Leon wrote. "Guessing by an applicant from among several explanations for ineligibility does not serve the fundamental purposes of due process."

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