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The material -- from basic kitchen goods to sleeping necessities -- sat in warehouses for two years before the Federal Emergency Management Agency's giveaway to federal and state agencies this year.
James McIntyre, FEMA's acting press secretary, told CNN that FEMA was spending more than $1 million a year to store the material and that another agency wanted the warehouses torn down, so "we needed to vacate them."
The director of Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sunday defended giving away an estimated $85 million in hurricane relief supplies, blaming Louisiana officials for turning down the stockpiles.
A New Orleans charity keeps goods in trash bags in an empty church. FEMA never told it about the free items.
"We still have quite a few left if Louisiana needs those," David Paulison said. "But we did find out, we did ask Louisiana, 'Do you want these?' They said, 'No, we don't need them.' So we offered them to the other states."
Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, an outspoken critic of FEMA's response to the hurricane, told CNN the supply giveaway was "just a shame."
"It's just another example of the failings of the federal bureaucracy," said Landrieu, who wrote Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week to request an explanation. "We're still trying to fix it. It's going to take a lot more work."