KY Gov: FEMA Denying Too Many Requests 08/12 06:11
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Gov. Andy Beshear complained Thursday that the
Federal Emergency Management Agency is denying too many requests for assistance
in flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky, and urged those getting turned down to take
their cases directly to agency representatives in the region.
Offering the mantra of "appeal, appeal and appeal," Beshear told people
applying for disaster aid: "Number one, do not give up. Number two, if you're
denied, go and look these people in the eye."
A FEMA spokesman later said the agency "will get this right," acknowledging
the "bureaucracy can be frustrating." Agency personnel are meeting with
residents to help with applications for aid and documentation submissions, the
Beshear accompanied President Joe Biden during a visit to the stricken
Appalachian region Monday, when the president declared the federal government
would provide support until residents were back on their feet. The governor
said Thursday he was grateful for the swift federal response to the
catastrophic flash flooding late last month and the deployment of FEMA
officials. Surging waters swept away homes, inundated communities and led to at
least 38 deaths.
But the Democratic governor flatly said "we need to see better outcomes" for
more eastern Kentuckians applying to FEMA for recovery assistance.
"Too many people are being denied," Beshear said at a news conference. "Not
enough people are being approved. And this is the time that FEMA's got to get
it right. To change what has been a history of denying too many people and not
providing enough dollars and to get it right here."
FEMA Press Secretary Jeremy Edwards later responded that agency officials
will be in the flood-stricken region "as long as it takes" to help Kentuckians
"We know these are incredibly difficult times, and we want to help you,"
Edwards said in a statement. "We will continue to work to ensure that every
eligible applicant receives every dollar of assistance legally possible."
The governor, who is running for reelection next year, has experience
shepherding disaster recovery. Last December, deadly tornadoes devastated
several western Kentucky towns.
Beshear said he didn't yet have figures reflecting the percentage of aid
applications being denied by FEMA in eastern Kentucky. The agency has promised
those numbers, he said, along with data showing why people were denied.
The governor and a Kentucky lawmaker from the hard-hit region offered
examples of people in dire straits being denied assistance or offered
"I talked to somebody whose 82-year-old grandmother was told at a site visit
that everything was OK ... only to get denied later that night through an
email," Beshear said. "It's not right."
Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith said Thursday that he's heard from
constituents who said they were denied or offered a "grotesquely inadequate
amount" to rebuild. One family reaching out to his office said they were
offered $8,000 for their losses, the Republican lawmaker said.
"To me, that means the federal government has decided the total value of
this families' livelihood, literally everything they have to their name, is
only worth $8,000," he said in a statement.
Some families are staying in tents on their property, unable or unwilling to
leave for temporary housing for fear of looting, Smith said.
The governor criticized the application process, saying flood victims were
being denied assistance when lacking necessary documents. Beshear said he
conveyed his concerns to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and top FEMA
"I'm hearing from the very top levels that they fully agree," the governor
said of his concerns. "And from the people on the ground, I was talking to them
yesterday, they want to provide help. Something in the middle is problematic."
Edwards, the FEMA press secretary, said the agency's leadership is working
to "reduce barriers and cut red tape."
"If you were denied assistance, that is not necessarily the end of the
road," Edwards said. "Something as simple as a missing document can cause an
application to be deemed ineligible. The system isn't perfect, and we know that
the bureaucracy can be frustrating."
FEMA is calling applicants to "help them get back on the road to recovery,"
Edwards said. The agency is encouraging anyone initially denied assistance to
contact FEMA again or visit an area Disaster Recovery Center to meet with FEMA
personnel about their application, the spokesman said.
During his news conference, Kentucky's governor said he's "still hoping that
FEMA gets this right." Beshear added he's hearing too many examples from
"people that I know and trust, talking to me about too many stories that just
aren't right" in reaching out to FEMA.
Beshear's frustration boiled over as he spoke of the grandmother rescued
from her vehicle as it was being swept away by floodwaters, only to face
obstacles in obtaining assistance.
"Her house, already gone," he said. "Her vehicle now gone. All she's got is
what's on her. And you're going to say she doesn't qualify, for what? If you're
going to deny somebody because they don't, say, have the deed of their house on
them ... We can replace it. Let's not deny them. Let's give them the
opportunity to get the paperwork that they need."