Preparedness & Recovery

FEMA Contractor Sent 50,000 Meals to Puerto Rico Instead of 30 Million

'In Puerto Rico, it's been four months and we still have 30% of our population without energy.'

by Brian Lisi, New York Daily News / February 7, 2018
People line up with gas cans to get fuel from a gas station, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico while the Trump administration sought to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of it efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) AP

It's not delivery, it's disappointment.

With the goal of delivering 30 million meals to the hurricane-ravaged archipelago of Puerto Rico, the FEMA decided to give a contract worth $156 million to a one-person company run by someone with zero disaster relief experience, The New York Times reports.

Somehow, that plan didn't work out.

Instead, Tribute Contracting LLC owner Tiffany Brown, with the help of an Atlanta-based wedding caterer, only managed to deliver 50,000 meals at a time when FEMA was already expecting 18.5 million.

Moreover, the meals weren't "self-heating" as the deal requested.

Only at that point did FEMA take action regarding Brown's work.

"Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated," said FEMA contracting officer Carolyn Ward in an email obtained by The New York Times.

"This is a logistical nightmare."

That correspondence was dated Oct. 19, the same day that President Trump held a news conference with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello in which he graded his administration's response to Hurricane Maria.

"I would say it's a 10," Trump said.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are attacking the deal that was meant to provide aid to nearly 3.5 million U.S. citizens, particularly in light of the company's past with at least five other contract cancellations, Reuters reports.

In one incident, the company wasn't even able to adequately create tote bags for the Government Publishing Office.

Said Rep. Elijah Cummings, "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."

Meanwhile, conditions on the ground have been slow to improve. Speaking at a rally in the Bronx on Saturday, Rossello detailed what his citizens are still facing.

"In Puerto Rico, it's been four months and we still have 30% of our population without energy," he said.

"Where else in the United States would that even be possible?"

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