News6 Investigates

Actions

6 Investigates: Families wait for FEMA help, nonprofit gets results

Posted: 6:21 PM, Feb 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-30 13:15:15-04

It’s been nearly six months since Hurricane Harvey, but hundreds of families in the Coastal Bend are still waiting for FEMA aid to help them fix their damaged homes.

Some have turned to a group of local attorneys, and are finally getting the help they need.

Attorney Tracy Figueroa has seen the mental anguish the hurricane brought to the area

She said she hears about it every day from families desperate for help.

"We’ve got clients who are living in mobile homes that were so dangerous that the FEMA inspector didn’t want to go inside to continue the inspection,” said Figueroa, who is the disaster assistance team manager for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid .

The legal aid is a nonprofit group that typically represents the working poor or those who are living below the federal poverty line.

Many of its clients share something else in common: FEMA denied a claim to help repair their damaged homes.

They are overwhelmed by the process and just trying to get by, Figueroa said.

“They were either going to have to stay in their uninhabitable home in order for their child to stay enrolled in the high school in the area or they were going to have to take a hotel room – somewhere as far away as San Antonio,” she said.

So far the nonprofit says 1,600 people affected by Hurricane Harvey have applied for legal help. Those include families from Rockport, Aransas Pass, Victoria, Ingleside and Port Aransas

Missing paperwork is the most common reason FEMA denies their claim.

“People get discouraged by the letter that says denied and they don’t understand what’s happening,” Figueroa said. “We’re able to help them get to the bottom of it and sort that out."

It can take months to resolve, but in some cases it’s been worth the wait.

"We had one client go from zero to over $20,000,” Figueroa said. “We’ve had others go from zero to $8,400."