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Flagler residents denied FEMA assistance post-Matthew still need help


Date: December 14, 2016
Source: News 13 Palm Coast
Author:  Brittany Jones


PALM COAST - Residents in Flagler's Palm Terrace neighborhood whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Matthew are now wondering what to do next, as their applications for FEMA assistance were denied.

  • FEMA assistance application deadline Dec. 16
  • Applicant whose home was deemed "livable" denied assistance funds
  • Appeals on FEMA assistance denials are possible

Resident Andrew Digaetano said Hurricane Matthew broke some of his windows, tore shingles off of his roof, and cracked the ceiling in his home.

"There's a lot of people here that are missing car ports, half of their roofs, one person actually had a tree fall down and split the trailer in half," said Digaetano.

Digaetano said he and many of his disabled and elderly neighbors don't have insurance because they can't afford it. He said FEMA was their only hope ... until they were denied.

"They said my home is 'livable,' so we can't fix it," said Digaetano. "If it was unlivable, then they would fix it."

His damage isn't as extensive as some others nearby who have tarps covering their roofs. But he said his home still needs work.

"I hadn't had a heavy rain storm or wind storm yet, so time will tell," said Digaetano.

Florida's FEMA spokesperson, John Mills, had this response for residents concerned about being denied.

"If people feel that a mistake has been made we encourage them to stay in touch with FEMA," said Mills. "If they believe that damage to their home is uninsured or under-insured and is creating an unsafe living condition for them, we want to hear that information."

Resident Ben Thompson described having what sounded like that kind of damage in his home.

"When I came in, I stepped over there and almost went through the floor because of the water damage," said Thompson.

Yet FEMA said Thompson's damage didn't qualify for assistance, either.

"FEMA said I had insurance, and they wouldn't cover it and the insurance company denied the claim, said it was "existing", so now in limbo."

Thompson said he then paid out of pocket to fix the floor. He now has a leak in the ceiling.

FEMA officials said homeowners can appeal if applicants disagree with the denial of their claim. But claimants must write them a letter explaining the damage, provide supporting documents, and mail or possibly fax them a signed letter. Claimants have 60 days after receipt of denial letters to file appeals.

Thus far, FEMA said they have given out about $1 million in grant money to help Flagler residents and $17 million Floridians total get back on their feet financially after Hurricane Matthew.

As for Digaetano, he told us he hopes their decisions for him and his neighbors will change.

"I hope FEMA would reconsider and look at some of us in here, the ones that got the denial, and reconsider helping us get our homes fixed," said Digaetano.

Flagler's disaster recovery center at the Palm Coast Library is set to close Friday. Until then, the staff there is available to help resident file claims until the application deadline.