Study: Money talks when applying for FEMA disaster relief

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If you have a higher income, chances are better you'll be approved for FEMA disaster relief, a study suggests. (KTRK)

Living in a high-income neighborhood and owning your home makes you more likely to get approval from FEMA for disaster assistance, analysis from the Episcopal Health Foundation finds.

Its study, released Tuesday, shows the lowest rate of FEMA approvals for homeowners was in the Corpus Christi area with the average approval rate below 20 percent. The average median income in the area stands at $61,000.

Compare that to the Memorial area, Meyerland, Kingwood, Katy and Cinco Ranch where approvals were the highest for homeowners, above 67 percent. Average median income in these areas is $93,000.

"We don't know all the specific reasons for approvals or denials, but the numbers show many lower-income communities were less likely to be approved for FEMA assistance than some of the higher-income communities," said Elena Marks, EHF's president and CEO in a news release. "Recovery efforts need to use this kind of data to not only best decide where assistance should go, but also what types of different help may be needed in different communities."

Renters were also approved less than homeowners. The highest rates of approval were under 50 percent and centered in Rockport (78382), Katy/West Houston (77094), Aransas Pass (78336), Ingleside (78362) and Bay City (77414), the study found.

According to the EHF data, Spring Branch (77055), Corpus Christi (78413 and 78414), Northwest Houston/Jersey Village (77040) and Stafford/Meadows Place (77477) had the lowest percentage of FEMA approvals for renters - below 25%.

EHF looked at FEMA applications for at least 41 counties that had at least 1,000 applications after Harvey. The last data set available was Dec. 5

Click here for an interactive map from the EHS on the highest rates of denials.

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