ABC13 viewers still waiting for FEMA's help, weeks after May's destructive storms

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, June 6, 2024
Some residents still waiting for help after devastating storms
It's been weeks since a derecho ripped through Houston, causing billions of dollars in damage. But some people are still waiting for FEMA's help.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- We may have flipped the calendar to June, but there are still people who are trying to recover from the severe storms that devastated parts of the Greater Houston area in May. Viewers reached out to ABC13, saying they've been waiting weeks with no answers as to where their disaster recovery money is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Sandra Edwards doesn't know how much longer she can keep making repairs to her home in Houston's Fifth Ward. She said Hurricane Harvey gutted her house, forcing her to rebuild a few years ago. Now, she's dealing with cracks in her walls, and her roof is slowly caving in after the derecho event ripped through the area on May 16.

"The storm woke me up. It came through like a freight train. My house started shifting and shaking. Eventually, I noticed my ceiling was detaching all the way around. With each disaster, it's like I keep taking another hit. It feels like the more I work on this house, the (more) disasters just come back and beat me up," Edwards said.

Edwards said she applied weeks ago for financial assistance from FEMA but hasn't received a response and is still waiting for an inspector to come look at her house. However, she told ABC13 that FEMA is providing her with temporary lodging in the meantime.

"I have nothing. No food. No money. What do I do?" Edwards asked.

In a statement to ABC13, a spokesperson for the federal agency wrote, "FEMA assistance requires verification of the specific unmet need and that it is caused by a disaster declared for Individual Assistance. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine what type of assistance is needed to support the survivor."

FEMA's website also states that application delays are caused by a number of reasons. Sometimes, there may be missing documentation in the application, or an applicant may have inadvertently ignored a follow-up call from FEMA since they typically call from an unlisted number.

RELATED: How to get help from FEMA if you were impacted by last week's destructive storms

The May 16 derecho left Jennifer Shanal without power for four days in Channelview. She said she lost all of her food, and now she's dealing with water damage and mildew in her walls.

"When the storm came, I had little to nothing. I had to put everything in a bucket. So now I'm just robbing Peter to pay Paul. I've just been stuck in a hard place, and I feel like my back's up against the wall. I don't have anyone that can help me," Shanal said.

Shanal said she was approved by FEMA for $750 and was supposed to receive the money more than a week ago but was told that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is the agency that needs to distribute the funds. She said she waited for hours on their hotline with no answer.

ABC13 brought Shanal's concerns to the state, and a spokesperson wrote the following statement, "HHSC is working diligently to distribute funds to FEMA-approved disaster survivors. While we are answering calls as quickly and efficiently as we can, wait times may be higher than usual as our staff handles the increased volume of calls."

HHSC stated that it is working on expanding its hotline capacity. In the meantime, people with questions for the state agency can try its Other Needs Assistance department at (800) 582-5233 or email

READ MORE: Here's why experts say you shouldn't wait to apply for FEMA if you think you qualify for assistance

So far, FEMA said it is helping 34,636 Texas households recover from storms and flooding. To date, it has approved $68.5 million in financial assistance.

Anyone with disaster damage has until July 16 to apply with FEMA. You can do this by visiting the Disaster Assistance website, downloading the FEMA mobile app on your phone, calling the FEMA hotline at (800) 621-3362 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., or visit one of their disaster recovery centers.

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