EDGECOMBE COUNTY — Thousands of Hurricane Floyd victims receivedfood stampcards following the storm. Now, dozens of county agencies are getting stuck with a huge bill to pay for the cards.
Citicorp, the company who makes the cards, usually charges $1.09 per card. After Floyd, the company charged more than $12 for each emergency card.
While the company defends the costs, some local agencies say it is a cut and dry case of gouging.
"We're pleased with the service," says Hobert Freeman,Edgecombe County's social services director. "It's just the cost of that service that is troubling at this point."
Freeman says Citicorp has charged 12 times what a regular food stamp card costs. Now his agency has another Floyd-related expense, this one in excess of $30,000.
"It sounds exorbitantly high to me," Freeman says. "The disaster counties, those hardest hit by Hurricane Floyd, are now going to have to struggle to find the money when we're trying to provide all the money we can to rebuild our homes, rebuild our people."
The state says the emergency cards did not really cost 12 times the normal price, but still admits it was surprised at the final bill. It does not plan to investigate the charges for price gouging.
Citicorp insists it did not take advantage of a disaster-stricken state, noting it warned the special delivery cards would cost a premium.
Citicorp would not give specific details on why they cost so much more. "If we could understand that because of the emergency nature of it, because of the speed and rapidity which Citibank had to respond, maybe the cost is reasonable" -->
Ironically, the state and Citicorp had been working on a plan for disaster food stamp cards, but not in time for Floyd.