Kentucky family gets FEMA aid after public radio investigation, but many more are still waiting

Republished from WEKU.

In late April, Kentucky Public Radio published a story investigating how the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to notify disaster victims about a deadline to appeal aid decisions.

KPR’s story highlighted Susan Hall and Lance Damer as just one example of many who were seeking additional money to fix their home, long after the 2022 floods in eastern Kentucky. Records show FEMA rejected their appeal for aid because a reviewer “feels [the] applicant has already received all home repair awards they were eligible for.”

A year and half after the flooding, they were told by the FEMA call center that “no further processing and no appeals will be accepted or reviewed at this point because of the financial closure.”

That’s how many flood survivors learned about the FEMA deadline: after their cases were closed, ending their hopes for thousands of dollars in additional aid.

Officials even sought to retract information about that deadline from television station WYMT and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

During the course of reporting the story, KPR reporter Justin Hicks contacted Sen. Rand Paul’s office about the issue. A staffer there asked FEMA to look into Hall and Damer’s case.

“Thanks to this referral, my office staff contacted FEMA on their behalf and was notified on April 29, 2024, FEMA had re-reviewed the appeal & awarded additional funds for further repairs,” Sen. Paul said in an emailed statement.

Five days after Kentucky Public Radio published the story, FEMA awarded the couple nearly $19,000 to fix the plumbing and electrical systems that were ruined by the flood, records show.

Paul’s office encouraged anyone else facing “issues with federal agencies” to contact their Bowling Green office.

KPR’s story also highlighted the work of Whitney Bailey, a disaster resource attorney with legal aid group AppalReD. She helped Hall and Damer and more than 300 other families file appeals to FEMA aid decisions. Often their appeals are rejected and FEMA will not reconsider the decision any longer, she said.

Bailey said she hopes the agency can be transparent about deadlines in the future and that additional help will come for her other clients, too.

“I’m staying hopeful for my clients and I’m encouraging them to do the same, cause there’s still so much work to be done,” Bailey said. “Disasters are only going to continue happening… and there is help out there but definitely do not give up because it is a lengthy journey.”

In a blog post on their website, AppalReD characterized FEMA’s actions as “tiptoe[ing] away” from eastern Kentucky.

Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.