It has been almost a month since Hurricane Katrina and nearly as long since I posted the article, “Financial Assistance for Katrina Victims is… sent by mail?”. Since then I have received numerous responses to my article from displaced Katrina victims who are having all sorts of problems with FEMA and emergency assistance. I want to share one of the responses with you that I received this morning.
To whom it may concern:
On September 6th, 2005 I applied to FEMA for disaster assistance while at the American Red Cross shelter in Raleigh, North Carolina. I spoke with FEMA representative David #9496. I was asked questions about the damage received to my apartment and personal items. I explained to David that I was a New Orleans native and that after having to live in a flooded apartment with no electricity or water, severe damage to the kitchen ceiling, exterior balcony, broken bedroom windows, and after loosing several personal possessions while caring for my disabled mother for a week ..... I suffered severe hurricane and flood damage. FEMA had also declared that the zip code 70113 is a disaster area. This is the area in which I lived. However, my application was for disaster assistance was denied! I was unaware of the situation until I had a chance to check on the status of my application.
I called FEMA and spoke with representative #50027 and explained the situation. She told me that it is obvious that I lived in a disaster area and I would not have received a FEMA ID number and that apparently there was an error in the filing of my application. The person I spoke with was very friendly and helpful. She told me that my case was going to be referred to a caseworker and that the issue should be resolved in 3 to 4 days. I felt that things were starting to look a little brighter.
Since then I have called everyday to check on the status of my application. Every time I call a FEMA representative tells me they are going to refer my case to a caseworker and that it was under review - inspection. I've tried to check my status online but have had no luck retrieving the pin # I requested from the fema.gov site :(
On 9/16 at around 11:00 am, as an act of desperation, I decided to try and call FEMA yet again! Please keep in mind this is after repeatedly calling the same number daily over and over and over again until you get the standard voice greeting and then a hang up :) Finally I got through, at about 11:45, and spoke with a FEMA representative. I was not quite sure if I was given a representative # but the person I spoke to was very unhelpful. She even tried to blame me for the situation because apparently she said my application read as me not having hurricane or flood damage. Needless to say that was the straw that broke the camel's back. The representative was rude and even laughing at the situation. She tried to tell me things I had heard over and over and over again. If there was more focus on fixing the problem I don't think I'd be writing this letter today. Lastly, after a heated verbal argument the representative hung up.
In the process, all the money I had has dwindled on food or some other unexpected expense. I have temporary shelter with a college buddy but it is not permanent or guaranteed daily. I am an independent, single, tax paying male.The owner of the store I managed canceled our last paychecks with PAYCHEX systems and claims he can not pay us. I have applied for food stamps and unemployment and haven't received either yet. I have also been looking for employment.
Thankfully, the American Red Cross was there to help me and my mother evacuate from my apartment in New Orleans to North Carolina. They assisted me by giving me a $360 debit card in which most went towards a plane ticket to Mississippi and food. Every time I call FEMA they send me to American Red Cross :(
Believe me I understand that I am very fortunate. I have not had life sustaining injuries and I really could care less about my physical properties. I know that FEMA is overwhelmed with calls and people that need help. That's why I was patient. I even dedicated a lot of my time helping people that were less fortunate during the hurricane. I have waited long enough! I need FEMA assistance to continue with my life. I have seen people that I have helped file applications for FEMA receive assistance within 3- 5 days of their claim. They have moved on with their lives. I feel like my wings have been clipped. Ii is obvious that I can't go back to New Orleans and that I need assistance. Katrina happened August 29 of 2005. Today is September 24, 2005. Why am I still suffering?