Gulf Coast nonprofits left out of the loop as FEMA gives away $85 million in Katrina supplies

A CNN investigation found that FEMA gave away about $85 million in household goods meant for Hurricane Katrina survivors, but were distributed elsewhere. The goods were given away to other government agencies after sitting in a FEMA warehouse for two years. The CNN investigation found that more than 121 truckloads of these supplies were redirected outside of the GulfCoast.

The supplies included items such as buckets, boots, cleansers, first-aid kits, coffee makers, mops, brooms, tents, lanterns and camp stoves, as well as clothing, bedding, plates and utensils. FEMA said the items were no longer needed and declared them "federal surplus," according to CNN. The items were then given away to federal and state agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, as well as 16 other states and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

But FEMA did not offer these supplies to GulfCoast community groups that are still struggling to provide services.

"These are exactly the items that people are desperately seeking donations of right now: basic kitchen household supplies," Martha Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans, told CNN. Kegel, whose group works to rehouse victims of Katrina, told CNN that groups like UNITY have time and again told FEMA that they were in desperate need for household supplies. But she said FEMA never told Unity and other community groups that it had tens of millions of dollars worth of brand-new items meant for storm victims just sitting in storage.

On Wednesday, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking for help in recouping these household goods and directing them to hurricane affected areas from Southwest to Southeast Louisiana.

"While, I understand the stated need to save taxpayer money being spent storing these materials, I am concerned that there are still ongoing needs for these types of goods in my state," Sen. Landrieu wrote.

Landrieu further explained that there are currently many uses for the supplies by nonprofits and residents in the GulfCoast region. As Landrieu outlined in her letter to Chertoff:

The materials could be used for families that are getting new homes through groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and the St. Bernard Project. These types of resources could also be used to support the thousands of volunteers who continue to offer their valuable time on the ground. Additionally, providing these resources could free up funds that are needed for building materials and skilled labor.