U.S. to dole out $2,000 debit cards to hurricane victims
From today's Star Tribune:
WASHINGTON — The federal government plans to hand out debit cards worth $2,000 each to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.Some might read this to say that the government is paying for people to take cruises. What an odd thing to say. What will people who went on a cruise come home to?
Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, under fire for his agency's response to the disaster, held a conference call with governors of states with evacuees and described the plan. While many details remained to be worked out, the plan was to quickly begin distributing the cards, starting with people in major evacuation centers such as the Houston Astrodome.
Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency which is administering the novel card program, said it is aimed at those with the most pressing needs.
"The concept is to get them some cash in hand which allows them, empowers them, to make their own decisions about what do they need to have to start rebuilding,'' Brown said.
Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who participated in the conference call, said the cards will be offered "to people in shelters as well as people who are not in shelters but who have evacuated the area and need help.'' He said the hope is the cards will encourage people to leave shelters voluntarily.
Other FEMA officials warned not all families that fled their homes will be eligible.
"For instance you may have some people who have insurance and insurance is meeting their living expenses while they have been displaced,'' said Ed Conley, a FEMA spokesman in Houston. "You have some people who may be looking at an option such as a cruise ship where all of their needs are going to be met. It is going to vary by family.''