Auditors Urge FEMA to Take Back Funding from Hope Academy
With the help of FEMA grants, the brand new Hope Academy building opened its doors this year eleven years after Hurricane Katrina flooded out their old facility. Now, the school could have to pay those grants back after a recent audit.
Auditors say FEMA should take back nearly $3.5 million in grants approved for Hope Academy, a church-run school in Gulfport.
The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s office says FEMA lacked adequate policies to prevent an “unaccredited and unlicensed non-public school” from getting federal money after Hurricane Katrina.
It says FEMA ignored a conflict of interest when Hope Academy agreed to pay a company run by the board’s chairman nearly $1.5 million for land in Gulfport.
News 25’s Shelby Myers spoke with Hope Academy’s Board Chairman Martin Goldin who says a federal appeals board already reported there was no conflict of interest.“FEMA hasn’t come to us and indicated that they expect us to pay back anything and the reason being is the audit does suggest that FEMA has different procedures in the future for approving these grants, but Hope Academy met all of the criteria that were in place at the time. There’s no indication that they’re going to make us hand back any money.”
Goldin did say a federal appeals board cut down their grant to nearly $500,000. He also says the school was and is accredited and licensed. Goldin says this year Hope Academy is thriving and enrollment is up over 60 percent and they are enjoying the new facility that was built in part by the grant.