Derecho-stricken Houstonians forced to face FEMA aid process again after Beryl

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, July 11, 2024
Derecho-stricken Houstonians forced to face FEMA process again
Some Houstonians have yet to address their FEMA needs from the May derecho. And now with Beryl, those residents have to do it again.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two days after Hurricane Beryl wrecked parts of southeast Texas, residents are working on rebuilding from the storm. However, some can't do it alone, hoping FEMA can help with the financial expenses.

Sandra Edwards feels like she can't catch a break. Her house in Houston's Fifth Ward sustained roof damage after the derecho in May, and she doesn't have the funds to fix it on her own. Now, it's in even worse shape after Beryl.

"I'm very tired. I can't take another storm. I'm staying in a home that's falling apart limb by limb, nail by nail, panel by panel," Edwards said. "My living room had a swimming pool in it. The water came up to the bottom of my floors. I'm concerned about getting mold again because that's what happened during Hurricane Harvey."

Ron Hale is in a similar situation. He doesn't have the means to repair the fence on the side of his house in northwest Houston since May's derecho snapped the tree in his yard. He said the damage lifted the back room of his house, and it's starting to detach from it.

Then, Beryl came through and caused additional damage to the front and back ends.

SEE ALSO: Disaster recovery expert weighs in on how long it takes to rebuild from a derecho

"I'm completely overwhelmed trying to keep my stress levels down. I have nerve damage, and being on disability (benefits), it's just been a nightmare," Hale said. "We have two dogs and security cameras. But that's not going to stop somebody from coming in. It's every day that someone stops to take pictures, and one day, it could be someone who decides to steal from me."

Both Edwards and Hale applied for FEMA funding in May to repair their property damage but said they were denied because their homes were not deemed unsafe to live in. They're now in the appeals process for the derecho and will likely apply if funds become available for Beryl.

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

Even though President Biden approved Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's request to declare Beryl as a federal emergency disaster for Texas, a FEMA spokesperson told ABC13 that the declaration is only for public assistance, which only provides resources like debris clean-up for local governments.

According to the spokesperson, Patrick must submit a separate declaration for individual financial assistance. However, once that's declared, FEMA said survivors can apply immediately.

According to FEMA, the earliest someone could receive funding after applying is five business days, and that's only if the applicant provides all of the required paperwork and documentation. If an inspection is needed, it could add weeks or months to the timeline.

READ MORE: Biden blames Texas officials for delayed federal response to Beryl

It's a timeline that feels incredibly disheartening for people like Hale.

"I'm just kind of in a real tough spot, and it really sucks that the help that we need isn't coming as fast as it should," he said. "I'm playing a waiting game, and the waiting game is not paying off."

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