FEMA Aid – Hurricane Ike

October 29, 2010 by  

This article about receiving government aid is a lesson in not taking no for an answer. There’s usually just too much at stake to walk away quietly:

Awaiting a decision about federal recovery assistance in the wake of Hurricane Ike was excruciating, but authorities say if the first application is denied, a second attempt might prove fruitful.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say many people were support simply because of application errors or an insurance company failed to provide proof a homeowner is not covered. But after a few touch-ups, people affected by the storm could obtain the help they need.

“It is not uncommon to be denied,” FEMA spokeswoman Barb Sturner said. “It could be because of insufficient damage to the home, or it could be because they did not have proof of ID or someone submitted a social that does not match the name or a lack of documentation or error.”

Sturner said the agency does not keep records on how many people are first denied but then approved for assistance, but “it certainly happens.”

More than $500 million in state and federal assistance helped Texans in 34 counties recover from Hurricane Ike, according to FEMA. More than $337 million was approved for disaster assistance for individuals and households, while $177 million was approved for small businesses.

Portia Mills is one person who waited for a second word from agency officials whether she could receive funding to repair her Angleton home. FEMA officials first denied Mills because she lacked an insurance estimate on her losses.

“Proudly, yes, I did re-apply,” she said. “I was going to say, ‘The heck with it,’ but I re-applied.”

After resubmitting her application she hopes to learn whether the agency will help her recover from the storm.

When residents receive that letter denying assistance, it is common to toss it aside and move on, Sturner said. But they can do themselves a favor by reading the letter from start to finish because, in the letter’s body, FEMA lists what is needed to complete the application.

Also, people should head to the nearest disaster recovery center for help assessing their situation, Sturner said. Officials there can bring up each person’s application and offer tips on what to do.

“Sometimes it does happen,” Sturner said of people being turned away once but then approved when they apply again. “That’s why we encourage people to go to recovery centers to check on the status of their case.”

Mills, who has lived in Angleton for about 10 years, did just that two days before sending off her second application — she went to the recovery center at the Lake Jackson Civic Center.

“The interview was more detailed, and they said I needed an estimate of everything that was affected by Hurricane Ike,” she said. “Originally, it was not that detailed.”

If an applicant disagrees with FEMA’s assessment, they can appeal the decision by getting an independent party to determine the home is uninhabitable, such as a bid for repairs by contractors or a condemnation notice by the city, Sturner said.

But that must be completed within 60 days of getting a denial letter.

Nathaniel Lukefahr is a reporter for The Facts.

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