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Wayne Co. changes language on flood assistance waiver after 7 Investigators report

Posted at 12:58 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 17:40:39-04

(WXYZ) — After the 7 Investigators exposed a controversial waiver that Wayne County was forcing residents to sign in order to receive flood damage assistance, the county is now reversing course. Wayne County is changing the language on the release that residents have to sign when applying for flood relief funds, and it’s also giving residents more time to sign up for the state aid.

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Wayne County residents who found their basements full of water and sewage after the June storms, faced yet another frustrating hurdle this month on the county’s application for flood relief grants.

“It seemed the wrong thing to do. Very wrong,” said Grosse Pointe retiree Barry Dickson. Barry had more than six feet of water in his basement after the storms on June 25-26, 2021. Barry and his wife Sue say their insurance company refused to cover the $90,000 loss.

While FEMA did reimburse them for things like their furnace and some of the cleanup, they were still left with more than $74,000 in losses.

“We’re looking for any relief we can get,” Barry told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo last week.

The Michigan legislature allocated $10 million for severe weather victims in several counties, and Wayne County received nearly $5.6 million of the $10 million. Barry contacted the 7 Investigators after he noticed the county was mandating that residents sign a release in order to apply for a grant, promising not to sue the county over the flooding.

“It just seemed kind of back handed thing to do,” said Barry.

After our story aired last week, Wayne County sent out a letter from County Executive Warren Evans, reversing course on the release waiver. It says, “…we have received numerous inquiries questioning the intent behind the requirement of a signed release attestation. The sole purpose of the release was to protect Wayne County taxpayer dollars from subjection to frivolous lawsuits related to the grant program.”

Wayne County spokesperson Tiffani Jackson originally told the 7 Investigators, “the document is an effort to protect the integrity of the process as well as the County’s interests.” Now Evans is saying “it was never the county’s intent to release itself from future litigation pertaining to the June 25-26 flood events.”

Now the county is only asking for a waiver related to the money provided through the program. The new language in the release now reads: “By entering my name below I attest that I am not submitting requests for costs or items that have been or will be paid for or reimbursed by FEMA or other property insurance. I further state that I release and promise not to sue Wayne County for any claim of damages related to the funds paid through this program.”

Evans said in the letter that anyone who signed the original attestation and release will “not be subject to those terms, and Wayne County will replace it with new language.” The county is also giving residents more time to complete the application for the state aid: you have until Friday September 24, 2021.

“I’m pleased to see that they have listened,” said Barry.

“I thought that it really proves that one person can be a change agent,” said Barry’s wife, Sue Webb-Dickson.

With the release language revised, Barry and Sue say they will fill now out the application and hope that they can get reimbursed for some of the damage they suffered.

“I think it’s important to bring this up so people don’t get taken advantage of,” said Barry.

Wayne County residents can fill out the application here.

If you have a story for Heather, please email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com