The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a $156 million contract to a one-woman business that was tasked with providing 30 million self-heating meals to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, but only followed through on 50,000, according to a New York Times investigation.
Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur who is the sole employee of her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, was awarded the massive contract by FEMA on Oct. 3.
Brown told Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff that FEMA awarded her the $156 million contract “because I was able to submit a proposal to supply 30 million meals at the cheapest cost.” She also said she “worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try and provide these emergency meals.”
To assist with delivering the millions of meals, Brown subcontracted with two companies: an 11-person wedding catering company and a Texas nonprofit that had shipped food to a Houston food bank during Hurricane Harvey to provide the meals.
FEMA terminated the contract 20 days later when Brown failed to meet a deadline of providing the first 18.5 million meals. She had only delivered 50,000, according to the Times.
Carolyn Ward, a FEMA official who oversaw the contract with Brown’s company, wrote in an email to Brown that the operation was “a logistical nightmare.”
“Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated,” Ward wrote.
Two Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are now asking Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy to subpoena FEMA for documents related to the agency’s failure to deliver emergency meals to Puerto Rico.
“It appears that the Trump administration’s response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico in 2017 suffered from the same flaws as the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., wrote in a letter to Gowdy, R-S.C. “Food is one of the most basic necessities for victims of natural disasters. This need is completely foreseeable—and in fact it was foreseen.”
This is at least the sixth government contract awarded to Tribute that has been canceled, according to the Times.
The Hill reports:
Brown’s company has been awarded dozens of contracts, but has failed to deliver on several, including four that required her to deliver food products to correctional facilities in the Federal Prison System.
At the time the FEMA contract was awarded, the Government Publishing Office had a ban on awarding contracts of more than $35,000 to Tribute until January 2019 due to a mishandled project.
Brown is now fighting the FEMA contract termination and seeking a $70 million settlement. Her appeal argues that FEMA canceled her contract because the meals Tribute provided were packaged separately from their heating pouches, and claims that FEMA did not say the meals had to be self-heating.
“Clearly, Tribute did not have sufficient financial resources of its own to support this contract,” Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Del. Stacey Plaskett wrote in their letter. “FEMA should have raised serious questions about whether the company could meet the contract terms — especially since the contract concerned such a critical need.”