In the wake of last month’s historic flooding, and damage beyond belief for many. President Barak Obama signed a disaster declaration clearing the say for victims to receive individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Thousands hoped that would be the life raft they needed to stay afloat, and get their homes repaired. However, many victims told the News 2 I-Team, their recovery is taking on water because that assistance from FEMA is not always easy to get.
Aileen Burgeson’s Summerville home flooded when the rains came, and didn’t let up. She considers herself blessed that her home is not a total loss.
“I’m fortunate that home is not a total loss, but I feel like if it were, [FEMA] would have helped me by now”, Burgeson said.
Aileen did just as state officials instructed all flood victims. She registered with FEMA within days of the flooding.
“They were here right away, he looked around, he was here for about 15 minutes”, said Burgeon
Not long after that visit, she received a letter from FEMA saying she did not qualify for individual assistance, and that it would be “reasonable” that she make the repairs herself.
Meanwhile, Burgeson says the overpowering odor of mold and mildew forced her to live with friends while she navigates the appeal process.
She was not alone. Victims across South Carolina received denial letters, that FEMA and Governor Nikki Haley said were not “denials”.
“What does that mean?” Burgeson asked.
The I-Team took that question and others to FEMA representative William Lindsey. He says, Burgeson and others like her need to keep pressing the agency.
“I’m telling you to re-evaluate. That’s a time of re-evaluation, and you can only do that by staying plugged in with us,” said Lindsey. “It doesn’t stop there just because one person says ‘no'”.
Lindsey also said, the best way to make sure your needs are met is to visit a “Disaster Recovery Center”. FEMA has them set up all across the state.
“Tell them exactly what is happening, because disasters like this are constantly evolving, and so is your recovery,” Lindsey added. “Talking to someone face-to-face is always the best way to convey what you are going through.”
Acting on Lindsey’s advice, Burgeson has visited the DRC in Summerville twice. She says, she got a new inspector assigned to her case, and is awaiting word on what help she may receive.