Why many people are being denied FEMA flood assistance?

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 17:42:38-04

(WXYZ) — FEMA wanted us to do this story to clarify why people are being denied assistance after massive sewer backups and flood damage from last month.

President Biden declared Wayne and Washtenaw Counties disaster areas clearing the way for federal assistance. Basements are the hardest hit. And that’s where there’s confusion. FEMA provides limited help.

We did our first story on this with Danielle Ryan in Grosse Pointe Farms. She had insurance but it did not cover all of her damage and losses.

She was denied help from FEMA and told us why, “They don’t cover drywall, flooring, nothing if nobody lives in the basement. It is considered completely non-essential.”

Susan Jensen is with FEMA in the Chicago Region 5 office and tells 7 Action News, that is correct.

She makes it clear adding, “The assistance FEMA provides is not meant to make a home the way it was pre-disaster.”

FEMA will cover costs to make a home habitable after insurance payments. That includes replacing hot water tanks, a furnace, washer and dryer, clean up and sanitization, tear out costs.

FEMA will not cover lost personal property or restoration costs.

FEMA tells people they can apply for low-interest loans with the SBA or reapply or appeal to FEMA.

Word is spreading by the dozens of how people are being turned down.

Christopher Wilkinson lives in the Jefferson Chalmers area of Detroit and tells us, “6 posts on Nextdoor a day about people being denied. And a lot of people just give up for good reason.”

FEMA has people going door to door taking applications for assistance including Dearborn Heights.

Clarence Smith had water damage in his own basement in Detroit and owns rental properties with damage.

He says, “Government has to help the citizens simple as that, city, state, federal government. That’s what they’re there for to help the citizens.”

Down the street from him is Diane Cottle who has lived in her house for 50 years.

FEMA has told people who get denied they can apply for an SBA low-interest loan.

Cottle says, “We need relief from the government. We need it to be released so that we can get something done without it being a loan for a disaster.”

We asked Susan Jenson with FEMA how she responds to so many people who will be discouraged. S

he said, “Well, again FEMA’s not an insurance program. It’s federal grant assistance to help families make their homes habitable again. One doesn’t need to have nice floor coverings to have a habitable home.”

FEMA has opened the disaster centers at the following locations:

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Monday through Sunday

Golightly Career and Technical Center
900 Dickerson Ave.
Detroit, MI 48215

Henry Ford Centennial Library
16301 Michigan Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126

Maplewood Community Center
31735 Maplewood Street
Garden City, MI 48135

Kemeny Recreation Center
2260 S. Fort Street
Detroit, MI 48217

Eton Senior Recreation Center
4900 Pardee Avenue
Dearborn Heights, MI 48125

Ypsilanti Township Civic Center
7200 S. Huron River Drive
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Grosse Pointe Public Safety Building
17320 Mack Avenue
Grosse Pointe, MI 48230

At a Disaster Recovery Center, you can . . .

  • Register for FEMA assistance by using phone banks at the center
  • Check the status of your application
  • Meet with a FEMA applicant assistance representative
  • Obtain information from state agencies and voluntary organizations
  • Discuss U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) low-interest disaster loans for businesses, non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters and receive help inputting your application or documents
  • Obtain information about additional resources available and how to reduce future damage