Why is FEMA offering so little to victims of the freeze?

A number of Houstonians who thought FEMA would make them whole are in for a rude awakening as hundreds in Houston are still trying to get assistance after their pipes burst in the winter storm.

One Houston family, for instance, who has thousands of dollars in damages after 12 of their pipes burst in their home thought it must be a mistake when FEMA only offered them $400, but it likely isn’t.

"I just want to go in my kitchen and cook my husband dinner," says Sharon Stewart.

Although it sounds doable, with Stewart's kitchen now left severely damaged, after pipes all over their house burst in the freeze, cooking, cleaning and frankly living there is nearly impossible.

"There’s holes in the kitchen, the garage. We have to replace a total of 12 pipes. We don’t have hot water. We’re boiling water to take a bath and it’s frustrating," Mrs. Stewart explains.

Her brother, who is not a plumber, patched up a few pipes to even get the cold water working.

The Stewarts were hopeful to get federal assistance. FEMA is offering $400.

Hundreds remain without water in greater Houston area following winter storm

Many of the water issues currently deal with those who rent or live in apartments.

"I was like are they serious and I just literally started crying. I'm like $400?" asks Stewart.  

"That’s usually what happens in these situations where someone receives less than they expect. They’re thinking they’re going to get enough to cover whatever damage they have. We can repair your home to the state that it is functional, safe, livable but we can’t, we’re not supposed to put it back the way it was. That’s what insurance is for," says FEMA Public Affairs Specialist Kurt Pickering. 

The Stewarts don’t have homeowners insurance. They had to let it go after Mrs. Stewart lost her job because of COVID-19. They both have lingering health issues after surviving the virus.

"They found a spot on my lungs months back. Now I’m told I have five spots on my lungs. His lungs are damaged from COVID now and he can’t walk from here to the end of the driveway," Mrs. Stewart explains about her husband.

FEMA encourages denied storm damage applicants to provide more information

We're hearing from many people who say they're frustrated their FEMA applications have been turned down despite damage to their homes or having no running water.  We took your questions to FEMA. 

By the way, their pipes burst on their wedding anniversary, something she’s trying to laugh about to keep from crying.

"Years from now that will be our story, hey we spent our anniversary fine dining in the car," she laughs. 

FEMA has given more than $35-million to Texans after the winter storm. If you, like the Stewarts, don’t believe you’ve received enough federal assistance FEMA suggests you call 800-621-FEMA to speak with someone to see if more documentation is needed.

If you’re still not satisfied and want to file an appeal you can mail your request to FEMA National Processing Service Center P.O. Box 10055 Hyattsville, MD 20782 or faxing FEMA at 800-827-8112.