Houston residents struggle with FEMA after devastating storm

Many Houston residents are experiencing difficulties when seeking federal assistance through FEMA in the aftermath of last month's severe storms.

Weeks after a derecho with wind gusts surpassing 100 miles per hour battered Houston and its neighboring regions, locals like Sharon Huston, are still grappling with the consequences and a challenging federal aid process.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Harris County reports multiple deaths from severe Houston storm

Huston has encountered obstacles with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) while trying to appeal their initial aid decision. Despite multiple phone calls with various representatives, Huston feels she is getting inconsistent responses and inadequate guidance.

"If you talk to three or four people, you get three or four different answers, and no one can solve your problem or even direct you in the right direction," Huston expressed her frustration.

After the storm, Huston lost not only her walker, dentures, and car, but also the special glasses required for her rare eye condition—a cost not covered by her insurance. Although her home damage has been repaired, FEMA's aid of $300 falls short of her expenses, compelling her to consider an appeal.

"You have to call back multiple times to get multiple different answers. Nobody answers the same question the same way," she said, highlighting the complexity of FEMA's appeal process.

Huston's financial strain grows as she covers costs out-of-pocket, a significant challenge to a fixed income.

"They make it so hard to even appeal a situation, because now you have to be out of pocket. If you're on a fixed income, where do you get that? Where can you draw those funds from?" Huston questioned.

FOX 26 Houston is now on the FOX LOCAL app available through Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Roku, Google Android TV, and Vizio!

FOX 26 asked FEMA if there is any particular reason a resident may be denied aid. In a statement, they responded:

"Each applicants’ situation is different. There are several reasons why they may not be approved. Insurance Settlement – FEMA needs a copy of the insurance settlement or denial letter. Proof of occupancy – FEMA needs documentation verifying the dwelling is their primary residence, such as utility bills, pay stubs, a driver’s license, or state-issued ID card. There may be other reasons why FEMA determined the application was ineligible. If they have questions or need additional information about the next steps to take, they should visit a local Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362."

FOX 26 asked FEMA what will get someone approved or denied, and they said these general conditions must be met for an applicant to be eligible to receive assistance:

The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified non-citizen.

  • FEMA must be able to verify the applicant's identity.
  • The applicant’s insurance, or other forms of disaster assistance received, cannot meet their disaster-caused needs.
  • The applicant’s necessary expenses and serious needs are directly caused by a declared disaster.

When asked about how long the appeals process, FEMA responded:

"This process varies from person to person. If an applicant does not agree with the amount or type of assistance they receive from FEMA , they simply need to submit an appeal with documentation to support their claim. They can also complete the Appeal Request Letter that’s included with their determination letter. Keep in mind that a "Not approved" letter from FEMA does not mean the process is necessarily over.  Applicants have the right to appeal and should call our FEMA Helpline number or visit their nearest DRC (Disaster Recovery Center) location to have any one of our FEMA agents assist them. We are here to help."

To find your nearest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, click here.