Couple discovers law requiring them to pay their way home following hurricane

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A metro couple questions why they're stuck with a big bill after hopping on a U.S. government-chartered flight out of hurricane-ravaged Cabo San Lucas.

Desperate to flee the devastation, they signed a note promising to pay the feds $600 each for the flight and now they have questions about where that money will go.

After hours at the airport and nowhere to stay overnight, they felt they had no other choice but to pay up.

"We were tired, we were hot, we had had no food," recalled Becky Bennett. "You either pay it or you're stranded. I feared for my safety, to be honest."

But why did they have to pay, when it seemed to the couple that thousands of people boarded earlier flights thanks to the U.S. government free of charge.

"It is a lot of money!" she said.

FOX 4 asked a representative from the U.S. Dept. of State.

Apparently, everyone had to pay thanks to a 1956 federal law that requires them to seek reimbursement "to the maximum extent practicable" for travel on a U.S. government facilitated evacuation flight.

We showed this law to Bennett.

"I don't think that's quite fair," Bennett said. "That's what we pay our tax dollars for. I think it's a very old law that maybe needs a little revision."

Determined for change, she's now seeking the help of Missouri Senators and her U.S. Representative – who all told her they will see what they can do.

"Maybe we're stuck with this bill and we'll have to pay it," Bennett said. "But maybe by us going through this, they can redo everything and make it easier on the citizens that are stuck somewhere else without an option."

The law states evacuees are charged the equivalent of a full coach commercial fare on a comparable mode of transportation.

If evacuees are unable to pay the specified amount, they can apply for emergency financial assistance. The law also says no one will be denied assistance because they cannot produce a checkbook or credit card.

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