A woman hired by FEMA to deliver more than 30 million meals to starving victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico delivered only 50,000 of those meals — even though she cashed her $156 million paycheck.
According to The New York Times, Tiffany Brown was tasked with the massive aid program, even though she had "at least five canceled government contracts in her past," and inked a lucrative deal with FEMA to be the point person in the United State's food aid program for the island nation.
But after contacting a wedding caterer in Atlanta and a small non-profit in Texas for help in fulfilling her obligations, Brown and her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, was able to provide only 50,000 meals — and of those meals, only a small portion fulfilled FEMA's requirement that the food be self-heating. Brown and her company had packaged hot packs and food separately.
When FEMA found out and canceled her contract, Brown didn't just forgive and forget. She's now suing FEMA for her money. She's seeking a settlement of "only" $70 million.
Unsurprisingly, it seems the government is largely at fault for being unable to handle a massive rescue effort — something that shocks The New York Times, but should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to the government's long-term record on these issues.
According to legislators, part of the problem seems to be that, as happened during the response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA waited until after a disaster to secure contractors to provide things like food, water, electricity, building supplies, temporary shelters, and other items to hurting hurricane victims. That means FEMA took the first and cheapest — and rarely the best and most reliable — contractor bid.
Tiffany Brown wasn't the only obviously unworthy person to get a contract — another $30 million building supplies contract went to a company that never delivered any of the plastic sheeting or emergency tarps it promised — however, she might have been the most obviously unworthy person. She's been awarded "dozens" of Federal contracts since 2013, for everything from military barracks mattresses, to prison food, to printed tote bags, and she's failed to deliver on quite a few of them.
One government agency blackballed Tribute, but since there's no uniform system to prevent waste and fraud, people suffered.
Puerto Rico is, of course, a special case. Even the most efficient government service programs would have met with trouble since the United States was reliant on local government officials to efficiently and effectively distribute aid — something the local government wasn't able to do, largely because of widespread corruption. But private aid efforts, which utilized local aid sources like churches, were able to feed hurricane victims.