Many who’ve endured flood damage have applied for FEMA help by now. But several people are still waiting for financial aid to show up or to cover their costs, and they're finding the process cumbersome.
Some free legal assistance will soon be available to help those struggling navigate the process.
When disasters hit, FEMA comes to mind. People are looking for help quickly. But FEMA requirements take time, leading to some frustrations.
When the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred hit in August, it took out the private bridge over Beaverdam Creek into a community of 23 homes along Vision Road near Canton. Since it was the primary entrance into the community, residents like Rhonda Schandevel pooled their money for a Burnsville contractor to build a replacement bridge. It’s done, but at a cost of $120,000.
“Then we all had to apply to FEMA. Then we had to all have inspections. And it’s been a process,” Schandevel said.
“We just don’t know. They have not said what they will do. So, we don’t know,” resident Darrell Webb said.
Residents do know FEMA sent $159 checks to some of them.
“They’re not going to come in with a helicopter and just drop a pile of money on us. We have to prove that we need it. And, yes, it’s frustrating," Schandevel said.
“This is not unusual for people to be very confused in this recovery process. There are just so many different players and organizations,” said Lesley Albritton, managing attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Albritton said her organization encourages FEMA application as the first pot available for flood relief.
“It’s not uncommon to receive a denial after applying. It’s definitely worth people’s time to appeal any kind of negative decision from FEMA, whether that’s an outright denial or whether a survivor received an amount of money with which they don’t agree,” Albritton said.
To address concerns, Legal Aid of North Carolina will hold two free clinics -- Nov. 6 at Cruso United Methodist Church and Nov. 7 at its office in Asheville. Lawyers will be on hand to talk about FEMA help and other avenues of financial aid, issues with insurance, home repairs, even replacement of wills or other important documents destroyed in the flood.
Despite what she sees as red tape in the FEMA system, Schandevel remains optimistic.
“I have all the confidence in them, but more so in our neighbors that it’s all going to work out,” she said.
The deadline for Transylvania, Buncombe and Haywood residents affected by remnants of Tropical Storm Fred to file for individual FEMA assistance for physical property damage is Nov. 8.
Albritton is offering a public discussion, “Natural Disaster: Legal Help for Survivors,” at 6 p.m. Friday Nov. 5, at Cruso United Methodist Church.
- Cruso: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 6 at Cruso United Methodist Church, 11653 Cruso Road
- Asheville: 1:30-6 p.m. Nov 7 at Legal Aid of North Carolina, 547 Haywood Road
Call toll-free 866-219-5262 for an appointment.