By Aaron Kesel
A FOIA request tipped off to Activist Post revealed a $74.7 million contract with Carnival Corporation, a cruise liner to host aid workers and first responders in the U.S. Virgin Islands on a “floatable hotel” after hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. Meanwhile, reported in the same week, a Harvard study revealed the death toll after hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was almost 5,000 people.
The company failed to host less than half the workers it agreed to and was paid far more money during the contract than the victims of the storm were given to rebuild their houses.
According to a report from WLRN:
As outlined in the contract, the company was to house 2,056 FEMA workers and other first responders for the length of the contract. The average number of nightly passengers for the contract window was only 799.5.
Taxpayers footed the cruise ship bill to a tune of $834 per person per night, equal to a rate of $5,959 per person per week, according to a spreadsheet of the daily passenger count and the contract itself, obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests.
Further, the ship only hosted the contracted number of people for a single day over the 112-day span of the agreement. That date was October 29, 2017, when the ship hosted 2,078 guests, according to WLRN.
The contract allowed the U.S. federal government 230,272 total stays onboard the ship, while the ship only hosted 89,545 stays. The agreement between FEMA and the company stated that Carnival must take care of three meals per day for each of its guests aboard its ship.
According to congressional testimony given by FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel in March, the amount of money spent by FEMA on the half-empty cruise liner was initially more than the total dollars that were “disbursed directly to the U.S. Virgin Islands survivors to help them get back on their feet.” As of March 1st, FEMA had given an estimated $70 million directly to survivors. The Carnival contract ended on February 3rd, and it wasn’t until a whole entire month and a half later that FEMA dollars were dispensed to the suffering victims to catch up with the million dollar contract deal.
The author of the report goes on to show infamous ridiculous government overspending and grossly inflated prices by showing a price comparison to Priceline and CruiseCheap.
The ship was docked in St. Croix throughout the four-month period. For comparison, the market rate for a vacation on the Fascination while the ship is actively moving between ports is between about $370 and about $1,200 per person per week, according to Priceline and CruiseCheap.com. Those numbers are based on double occupancy, but even if doubled would still be considerably cheaper than the rate FEMA paid.
Outrageous overspending is something that has been known about in government for a long time, made famous with the knowledge of the existence of $37 screws, a $7,622 coffee maker, $640 toilet seats in jets, as LA Times reported in 1986.
The public was so outraged over the high prices on parts that both chambers of Congress passed an unprecedented one-year defense budget freeze in the mid-1980s, in the middle of the Cold War, and under President Ronald Reagan, Truthout reported.
That investigation revealed that overpriced hammers and coffee brewers were priced by the same bloated formulas used for purchasing weapons. As Air Force whistleblower Ernest Fitzgerald said at the time, “Those Air Forces planes you see flying in the sky are actually overpriced spare parts flying in close formation.”
Well, in this case, those cruise liners you see used for storm relief? They are actually overpriced floating hotels that FEMA utilized, paying more to the company for their occupancy than to the deserving victims.
Not only does this further expose waste of taxpayer funds, but it shows that priorities aren’t in order if a cruise liner is being paid to host aid workers and doesn’t fulfill its contract and receives more money than the victims of a storm those workers were sent to help. In other words, your tax dollars went not to helping the relief of victims affected by a hurricane but a cruise liner and its stockholders. Ahhh America…
Image credit: The Anti-Media