Could Columbia County owe FEMA $1.8M in Tropical Storm Debby money?

It's almost a peaceful picture...if it weren't for the flooding thanks to Tropical Storm Debby.
It's almost a peaceful picture...if it weren't for the flooding thanks to Tropical Storm Debby. (James Hengerer)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 2016 Homeland Security audit claims Columbia County should pay back nearly $1.8 million in FEMA money from Tropical Storm Debby, but the county manager says that number is wrong. 

The Office of Inspector General completed the audit in November 2016 and recommended the county reimburse the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a chunk of $5.5 million in grant money awarded in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

According to the audit, 12 projects for emergency and rebuilding work, totaling $3.9 million, were audited, and the inspectors found $1,771,894 should be paid back to FEMA.

READ: Columbia County Tropical Storm Debby audit |
Board of Commissions response to FEMA audit

The audit claims the county did not always follow federal regulations and FEMA guidelines in spending funds.

But county manager Ben Scott said the county might owe no more than $20,000.

The issue has come up again in the county after the Lake City Reporter published an article Sunday, which Scott called “misleading.”

FEMA officials said they are continuing to review costs but that the audit figure is accurate. Any money they find that was not eligible or reasonable will need to be returned to FEMA, they said.

News4Jax has asked FEMA when a final decision will be made on how much the county might have to reimburse from the grant. Officials have not called us back yet. 


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