Some area residents say FEMA is quick to deny help
The storm may be over, but the battle to recover from Hurricane Florence is just beginning.
For some area residents, the recovery process will be more difficult since Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) quickly rejected their applications for assistance and instead recommended that they apply for disaster loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Leigh Harris suffered water damage to her Dover home as Florence struck hardest on Sept. 14, and she applied for FEMA Individual Disaster Assistance online on the 18th. Five days later, an inspector arrived to view the damage.
However, according to Harris, she “was denied within 12 hours.” On Sept. 27, Harris said she received a letter in the mail from the SBA.
“(It said) I was referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration for possible disaster loan assistance,” Harris said. “(It) really makes me feel like now ... they want to benefit from my loss.”
The SBA Disaster Loan program is intended to provide low-interest loans to individuals and small businesses to aid in recovery following federally-declared disasters. Speedy denials of FEMA assistance followed by referrals to the program, however, have some residents questioning the government relief effort.
Deep Run’s Preston Bunn suffered water damage — including structural weakening and mold growth — due to leaking windows in her home. She said she was shocked to receive an email denying her application for FEMA assistance within hours of the inspector’s visit to her home.
That same day, she received another email suggesting she apply for an SBA loan.
“I could sit down and cry, but it wouldn’t do any good,” said Bunn, who is also a business owner in Deep Run.
Severe flash flooding brought 7 feet of water into Bunn’s premises, destroying numerous personal possessions that were also stored there. FEMA denied his claim for assistance in replacing those items, and he has also been unable to receive assistance from the SBA after being referred to them.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said.
He is not alone in his frustration. Harris and others are beginning the appeal process, but the quick denials, coupled with referrals for loans, are making recovery from Florence that much more difficult.