Although it took a month after Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my mother has finally gotten someone to come out and put a tarp on her roof. The hurricane had ripped enough shingles from her roof to cause leaks in several places. She had signed a Right of Entry form several weeks ago with FEMA’s Operation Blue Roof (which I prefer to call the Blue Roof Group), and they finally came by last Sunday to nail a blue tarp onto the roof. Although FEMA is formally in charge of the program, the Army Corps of Engineers actually manages it.
The good new is that the blue tarps are being installed at no cost to the homeowner. The bad news is that FEMA, and therefore every taxpayer, is probably paying way too much for this service. Contractors are being paid an average of about $2,500 to perform less than two hours of work. On top of that, the contractors are being given the tarps for free. One estimator interviewed in that story said his company would typically charge about $300 to provide the same service in Austin, Texas. Admittedly, many of these companies have come in from out of state and have high expenses associated with arranging for travel and lodging expenses for their workers, but it’s hard to imagine how they aren’t making a fortune from this program.
One downside to having the tarp nailed to your roof is that enough damage is done to the roof during the process that what might have been an isolated repair will almost certainly turn into a full roof replacement. The nails used to secure the tarp will obviously leave holes that pierce through the shingles. Of course, most homeowners have little choice, as most of the the roofers now have waiting lists that are several months deep. Given the choice of suffering continued water damage through the fall and into winter versus having to talk their insurance agent into covering the cost of a complete roof replacement, most people are likely to opt to spend the extra amount of time on the phone with an insurance adjuster.
Obligatory Disclaimer: This image accurately represents neither my mother’s house nor the workers who nailed the tarp to her roof.