With a deadline to apply for FEMA assistance looming for Texans rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, questions about getting federal and state help remain for many residents in areas hit the hardest by the storm.
Marina Riker, a reporter for the Victoria Advocate, says that even though FEMA has opened a center in Victoria where residents can meet with officials, and held a question-and-answer session with residents earlier this week, some who have applied for FEMA help have received letters from the agency that they interpret as denials of their damage claims, based on lack of documentation.
“I think there’s a lot of paperwork that people are having to go through, which is really challenging,” Riker says. “Then you add on top of that… the wait times to call someone on the phone can be a couple hours, and it can also take awhile to actually meet with an official in person to sort through your application.”
Riker says over 19,000 Victoria residents have filed claims with FEMA. The agency has conducted 7,500 home inspections in the area.
“[FEMA representatives] are here, and they are very active in the community,” Riker says. “I think it’s just difficult to get all the paperwork together and navigating the system is really difficult for people who don’t have a home to go home to.”
Riker says the size and scope of Harvey’s impact could be to blame for impatience among residents, who are eager to get back on their feet, and hope, or expect, that FEMA will restore their property to pre-storm conditions.
“I think that there is a misconception that FEMA is supposed to come in and restore a home to its original condition,” she says. “And at least at this point, that’s not what they’re supposed to do.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.