Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker would like Federal Emergency Management representatives to clear up what he says is confusion surrounding Hurricane Irma assistance denials and the amounts being awarded.
People who were deemed qualified did not get assistance, and people who were deemed ineligible were getting $500 to $800 in assistance, according to Booker.
“We want FEMA to look into it, and we want to know when the people who are qualified, but were denied, will get the assistance,” Booker said Monday. “The assistance has stopped, and I think it’s unfair that people who needed the money did not get it.”
Reuben Brown, a FEMA spokesman, said Monday the criteria for receiving FEMA Individual Assistance is the same for all applicants in the given applicable category of assistance. He added that applicants may get differing amounts of assistance, based on their degree of damage, level of insured losses and programs in place at the time they register.
He said further that registration questions are meant to reflect the condition and situation as it is at the moment of the telephone call for assistance.
The particular question at issue was, “Have you been without your essential utilities (electricity, water, natural gas, propane, heating oil, sewer and trash) for five consecutive days or more?”
If applicants answered yes, but also answered no to home and personal property damage, FEMA’s streamlined processing sent out one month of rental assistance assessed at the two-bedroom rate for the given county, according to Brown. In many cases, that was $805, but the amount varies from county to county based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.
Booker said he spoke with a FEMA representative who said the agency’s reviewers misinterpreted the responses to that question, which resulted in confusion surrounding who received the assistance, and who did not.
If someone feels they were denied assistance based on inaccurate or incomplete information, Brown is encouraging them to appeal by visiting a local Disaster Recovery Center, 323 Old Jesup Rd., Suite 102, to meet one-on-one with a FEMA worker, or by calling 800-621-3362 or by going online to disasterassistance.gov.
“People will not appeal because they feel it’s a run around,” Booker said. “Low- income and elderly people will not do that because it makes it seem hopeless. It’s not so much that we’re saying that FEMA was doing something underhanded, I just want them to get the information out there and explain it, since they are the ones who made the mistake.”
Brown has not said reviewers misinterpreted the question.
Booker said he is planning a town hall meeting and will invite FEMA to explain the situation.