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I would never condone anyone defrauding FEMA and stealing government funds earmarked for disaster victims. However, Corporate Lodging Consultants (CLC) in partnership with the American Red Cross appears to have developed a program where both dishonest hotel guests and hotel owners may easily raid FEMA's coffers without having to worry about any pesky checks or audits.

Where Can I Stay?

Participating hotels are available throughout the country. In states outside of the hurricane area you need to pass under the watchful eye of the Red Cross.

However, in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, you can just pick any hotel and walk right in. No reservations are required. The CLC Hurricane Disaster Response Web site states:

Most hotels are participating. There is no need to contact the Red Cross directly to participate in this program.

How Do I Prove I'm a Victim?

You need to claim to be from a zip code that was affected by the disaster. CLC provides a handy list of Qualifying Zip Codes to choose from. It appears you can just make up a name and address.  The Hotel Program FAQ advises hotel owners:

If the evacuee has no proof of residency, ask them to provide their zip code and verify that it is in an affected area.

It seems that you needn't worry about FEMA checking your identity too closely. The Hotel Billing Instructions show that the only information the hotel needs to provide to CLC is the name, city, state and zip code you gave at the front desk.

How Long Can I Stay?

Indefinitely! No limit has been set. And you can change hotels as often as you like. Or, as CLC phrases it:

Regardless of check-in date, any evacuee may stay 30 days from check in... After their initial 30 day stay, evacuees may stay until further notice.

I'm a Hotel Owner. How Do I Get Paid?

In advance! That's right you can fax in a form listing guest name and zip along with the room rate and the estimated length of stay. For each guest name, you can be reimbursed for future stays of up to 14 days at a time. And conveniently, there do not seem to be any posted upper limits on room rates.

What If The Guest Leaves Early, And FEMA Has Already Overpaid The Hotel?

 No problem. CLC suggests to the hotel owner:

...You can mail a check and the guest's name, dates of stay and room number to Corporate Lodging Consultants, 3110 E. 32nd Street North, Wichita, KS 67226

Imagine how many reimbursement checks that busy accounts receivable staff in Wichita must be processing.

How Many Evacuees are in Hotels?

The New York Times reported:

The Red Cross and federal government said Tuesday that they had been significantly overreporting the number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in hotels. Instead of 600,000 people, 200,000 remain in hotels, the charity said.

Although the lower number means that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and cities receiving evacuees will find new housing for far fewer people, the count shows the lack of knowledge that FEMA has about the relocations and its limited oversight over the money it is committed to spend on such housing.

"FEMA still does not know any more about what it was doing last week than it was a month ago," Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said. "It is still, as far as I am concerned, an incompetent agency."

The New York Times includes this reassuring statement:

Neither the Red Cross nor the government monitors who stays in the hotels, Red Cross officials said.

Just how much is Corporate Lodging Consultants being paid to give away the government's money with seemingly no controls? FEMA appears to remain an extremely costly embarrassment.

Cross-posted at ePluribus Media.

Originally posted to mkt on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 06:01 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting diary ... (none)
    I guess that everyone is out booking their free rooms.
  •  How long is this going to last? (none)
    It will be much more attractive a deal when the snow flies in the upper midwest.  Wonder which state I'd rather visit    hmmmmmmmmm  (snark off)

    Good grief!!   and the rethugs are arguing that we can't afford to extend medicare to those misplaced and jobless due to the hurricanes.  Our country---time to take it back and fix it.

    Oh, by the way----ID also stands for Indictment Day.

    A borrow and binge republican's head explodes when its pointed out that the high tax era was our longest sustained growth. oooops there goes another one

    by maybeeso in michigan on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 06:24:37 PM PDT

  •  Hidden Katrina benefit ... (none)
    free vacation stays for all residents of the region whose homes were unaffected and for all people willing to lie about their residence ..

    And, what hotels are covered?  Can they go to resorts in Puerto Rico (okay, after Wilma)?  California?  Ski resorts?

    This sounds like just too good a deal to pass up ... oh yeah, I don't believe in fraud and stealing money from others.

  •  Texas 30 days in a hotel - more info from Texas (none)
    Two different end dates for program. What does it mean?
    Hotel Occupancy Tax

    1. As a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from Mississippi, Louisiana, or Alabama, can I stay in a hotel or motel tax-free?

    State and local hotel taxes are waived for victims from the affected states setting up temporary residency in Texas. The tax waiver is from the time of arrival in the state up to October 30, 2005.

    2. Can evacuees from the Texas Gulf Coast stay in a hotel or motel tax-free?

    Victims who must evacuate their homes because of Hurricane Rita may claim an exemption from state and local hotel tax by signing an exemption certificate stating that their stay is due to Rita. The exemption applies for any length of stay, regardless of the time of arrival at the hotel up to November 19, 2005.

    3. As a hotel manager, what must I have to grant an exemption from the hotel occupancy tax?

    For Hurricane Katrina evacuees, hotels should obtain documentation of the proof of residency from the persons occupying the room along with a completed exemption certificate. The certificate should state that the stay is due to Hurricane Katrina.

    For Hurricane Rita evacuees, hotels should obtain a completed exemption certificate from the evacuee stating that the stay is due to Hurricane Rita.

    4. I paid tax during the evacuation. How do I get it back?

    Hotel tax refund requests should be made to the hotel that collected the tax. The hotel, after refunding the tax, can adjust taxable receipts on a current return to take credit for the refund.

    5. The exemption certificate says it's for a business. How can I fill it out?

    Evacuees should mark the box "Other" and state on the certificate that the stay is due to the hurricane that caused the evacuation, Katrina or Rita.

    6. Will the evacuees who stay at my hotel after the exemption expires still be exempt?

    Guests who stay for a minimum of 30 consecutive days are exempt as permanent residents beginning the 31st day through the remainder of the stay. Guests who give written notice of intent to stay for 30 or more consecutive days and then stay for the next 30 days are exempt on the date of notice. Any interruption in the right to occupy a room voids the exemption.

    No hotel tax should be colleted on rooms paid with a FEMA debit card, FEMA voucher, or Red Cross voucher.

    Link

    Also:
    Thursday, September 01, 2005
    Dick Ellis
    512-463-4070

    Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn Waives State Hotel/Motel Tax for Victims of Hurricane Katrina

    (Austin)--Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today announced her office will waive the state hotel/motel tax for the victims of Hurricane Katrina seeking shelter in Texas.

    "Our prayers go out to the victims of this catastrophic storm," Strayhorn said. "The state of Texas stands ready to help the tens of thousands of refugees from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in any way it can. The state hotel and motel tax will be waived for victims from the affected states setting up temporary residency in Texas."

    Displaced residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama need only show proof of residency from their home states when checking into hotels and motels in Texas and notify the hotel or motel they intend to stay for at least 30 days for the 6 percent state hotel/motel tax to be exempted.

    For more information, contact the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts toll free tax assistance hotline at (800) 252-5555.

    Link

  •  Typo: Wichita (none)
    The quote incorrectly states:
    Witchita, KS 67226

    No sense compounding the error.

    BTW, hat's on the east side, northeast, to be exact, by the zip code.

    In troubling times, it's good to read true stories about real people doing good things. HeroicStories, free

    by AllisonInSeattle on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 07:44:09 PM PDT

  •  woo hah (none)
    Those Katrina victims really hit the jackpot! I wish I could stay in a hotel for free for a couple months in exchange for everything I owned!
    •  It's not the victims that troubles me (none)
      It's the potential for abuse by non-victims owning or staying at hotels.
      •  Hurricane victims (none)
        How many Katrina victims know to file for the exemption? How many hotel owners are doing it for their guests but not passing the funds along?
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