Contractor Paid $156 Million Only Delivered 50,000 Of The Agreed 30 Million Meals To Puerto Rico

Tribute Contracting LLC, a company owned by Atlanta-based entrepreneur Tiffany Brown, received a massive contract from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver 30 million meals to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, However, they fell short. Way short.

Brown is the sole employee of Tribute Contracting LLC, has no previous experience with large-scale disaster relief, but does have at least five canceled government contracts in the past. However, the combination of these factors never seemed too great an obstacle, as FEMA awarded her the $156 million contract on October 3 to provide 30 million self-heating meals to Puerto Rico, but Tribute only came up with 50,000 of them.

In an attempt to complete her end of the arrangement, Brown hired a wedding caterer that consisted of 11 staff members to freeze-dry wild mushrooms and rice, chicken and rice, and vegetable soup. Next, Brown used a Texas non-profit organization that had previously shipped food to a Houston food bank after Hurricane Harvey to move the meals, but to no avail. By the time 18.5 million meals were due, only 50,000 had been delivered. Furthermore, the “self-heating” meals that were required had been packaged with the heating pack separate, causing further headaches.

Carolyn Ward, the FEMA official who handled Brown’s contract, could see the logistical nightmare that the operation was becoming and sent Brown a very blunt email. “Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated,” Ward wrote.

Due to a mishandled project, the Government Publishing Office had a ban on awarding contracts of more than $35,000 to Tribute Contracting LLC at the time they were given the FEMA contract, a ban that was supposed to last through January, 2019. This, however, isn’t discouraging Brown from seeking a $70 million settlement, arguing that the contract wasn’t canceled due to her company failing to produce the required number of meals, but because the meals were packaged separately from their heating pouches, yet she also claims that FEMA never stated outright that they needed to be packaged together.

Whatever the outcome of this contract dispute between Tribute and FEMA, both FEMA and the Puerto Rican government reached an agreement earlier this month to continue providing food and water to affected communities.

Featured image via Mario Tama/Getty Images