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Congressman attends Harvey relief meeting

Mont Belvieu, September 24, 2017

Congressman attends Harvey relief meeting
Baytown Sun | By Michael Pineda
Sept. 24, 2017 | Link

The impacts of Hurricane Harvey are still being felt. Many have returned to their homes, their jobs and routines. But others live in hotels, seeking financial help to put their lives back together. 

This weekend, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin held a series of disaster recovery town hall meetings, including one in Mont Belvieu Saturday. The meetings were held in conjunction with a number of agencies such as FEMA and the Red Cross. The purpose was to provide better access to information for people who are in need.

“All nine of my counties are federally declared disasters,” Babin said. “When you realize the magnitude of the storm that blew in from Rockport. There were 36 counties from Rockport to St. Charles, Louisiana.”

Babin thanked everyone associated with helping during the hurricane ranging from individuals to churches and government officials. He also thanked the citizens of Louisiana for their assistance. 

He said during the flood, staff from Washington, D.C. fanned out across the district to make sure people were getting the help they needed. 

“There were a lot of rumors,” he said. “The reason for the town hall meetings is to dispel them.”

Those in attendance had the opportunity to write questions down. Babin read the questions for the agencies to answer. Most of the questions were centered toward FEMA. 

The first question was how long does an appeal take. FEMA indicated an appeal could take about 90 days although sometimes not as long. Because it was such a big disaster, it can take a bit.

“It can be frustrating,” FEMA representative Juan Ayala said. “One billion dollars has already been awarded by FEMA and it is on a case-by-case basis. There were 800,000 Texans that registered for assistance. Every person is treated with an individual assessment but not everyone is treated the same.”

Later on during the meeting, Ayala pointed out that while two houses may look the same, the interior contents would be different which could be a factor. 

When you register for FEMA, it may take 30 days for an inspection. It could take less if there is an inspector in the area. And it was pointed out an inspector is supposed to call three times. 

Particular attention was paid to reimbursements. Those in attendance were told to save their receipts for lodging reimbursements. And if a house were uninhabitable, FEMA would help with rental assistance. 

In relation to house inspections, people were told they most contact their insurance companies. FEMA said there would not be duplication of benefits. 

FEMA also announced hotel stays have been extended effective Sept. 26 through Oct. 23. People would be notified by robocalls. 

Ayala said FEMA strongly encourages people to put in for the Small Business Administration loan process. If they struggle with the Fail Income Test (FIT) status, they qualify for other needs assistance.