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Ky. Flood Survivors Urged to Continue FEMA Appeals

"If they get a check for only $179 that is just an initial” relief grant for contractor estimates, FEMA federal coordinating officer Brett Howard said on a conference call with media Sept 1.

(TNS) - Responding to reports that flood survivors in Eastern Kentucky have been receiving small federal grants – some as meager as $179 – officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency say the initial amounts do not represent final awards.

These grants, ranging from $179 to $195, are meant to help survivors hire contractors to conduct inspections and provide repair estimates, the agency says.

“If they get a check for only $179 that is just an initial” relief grant for contractor estimates, FEMA federal coordinating officer Brett Howard said on a conference call with media Sept 1.

“FEMA is here to help. We’re going to be here for the entire length of this. We’re not going anywhere,” Howard said.

The federal agency is under the spotlight after the state’s elected officials called it out for denying aid to too many in Eastern Kentucky , where July’s floods killed 39 people and left hundreds without homes.

Over the last two weeks, Gov. Andy Beshear has criticized FEMA’s messaging about the initial grants. He clarified Thursday the money is for hiring contractors to conduct repair estimates for “damages to your HVAC, septic system, well, retaining wall, single-family road or bridge.”

“It’s not your total award,” the governor said. “[FEMA is] now going to start sending emails about this, which they weren’t before, and it confused a lot of people.”

Beshear urged people who have received these small-dollar grants to get a contractor estimate and continue appealing to FEMA .

“This is ongoing and people should continue to push,” Beshear said Thursday. “Appeal, appeal, appeal. Get whatever extra documentation you need. Don’t stop. Keep pressing.”

Where the disaster stands in Eastern Kentucky

Thursday Beshear said two Breathitt County residents, both women from the Lost Creek community, are still reported missing despite several aerial and ground searches. They are 60-year-old Vanessa Baker and 29-year-old Nancy Cundiff.

As of Thursday, survivors had filed 13,527 applications for assistance, and FEMA had approved 7,100 of them, Beshear announced. Two thousand applications have been converted from denials to approvals, he said.

In response to the public pressure he’s aimed at the agency, Beshear took credit Thursday for expanding the meager amounts of FEMA relief Kentuckians were initially receiving from the agency.

“We’re now up to 52 percent of all applications that have been made have been approved for at least some level of assistance,” Beshear said. “When I first got these numbers, it was about 36 percent, 37 percent.”

For individual and household assistance, Beshear said FEMA haspaid more than $60.6 million.

For context, the federal agency finished the most recent fiscal year with nearly $12 billion in its Disaster Relief Fund.

More trailers are on their way to offer temporary housing

After the flood waters receded, revealing hundreds of washed-out homes, the state began offering options. The state is sheltering 345 people in area parks, Beshear said Thursday.

Kentucky has made some progress in securing temporary housing, but there are hundreds more individuals who have registered for assistance with the state’s sheltering program.

Beshear said the recent donation of repurposed Hurricane Ida trailers from Louisiana has enabled the state to shelter 78 more people, bringing the total 197 currently housed in travel trailers.

Still, up to 964 households have registered with the state’s sheltering program. It’s unclear whether all of them will qualify to receive support from the state.

Individuals seeking emergency sheltering in travel trailers can find more information and register online or by calling 502-234-1225.

Previously, the governor said the main obstacle standing in the way of providing more temporary shelter is a lack of sites in the region with the proper utility hook-ups.

FEMA officials have repeated that sentiment to reporters and the effort to locate more sites and modify them is ongoing.

Flood victims to receive $500 grants from state relief fund

Above and beyond any award flood victims might get from FEMA , Beshear said they will receive $500 grants from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.

“Nobody has to apply,” Beshear previously said, adding the state will acquire eligible recipients’ contact information from FEMA.

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