What’s with FEMA’s high denial rate of Galveston area requests for help?

Anger is widespread over the fact that people are still living in tents in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.  Data just obtained from FEMA shows the agency is approving less than 10 % of the applications for help from hurricane survivors in Galveston.

Hurricane Ike was a huge storm that destroyed homes across the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast.  No place was harder hit than Galveston. Maddie Sloan, a staff attorney for Texas Appleseed, got some data about the Galveston housing problems from the FEMA Austin Joint Field Office that is sobering.  Here is what she found.

The numbers depict the households that have applied for assistance from FEMA under the “Individual Assistance” program.  There is currently a 52% denial rate, the approval rate has fallen to 9.8%, with 32% of applications still pending, probably because home inspections have not been completed given some of the numbers FEMA has posted on the website about inspections.

Total registrations:     719,576
Total approvals:          70,595
Withdrawn applications:   42,115
Total ineligible:        374,957
Pending applications:    231,909

Applications to date in Galveston County: 70,077  ( As of October 25, about 43% of applications for Galveston County were from the City of Galveston.)

Applications withdrawn: 6,903

Out of the remaining 63,174 applications, 19,689 have been determined eligible, a 31% approval rate.  FEMA did not have the numbers broken down by denials vs. pending applications.

FEMA did have denials for Galveston County broken down by reason for the denial.  Those numbers, and FEMA’s explanations are below.

  • 58.78%  Insufficient Damage – the home has been inspected and was livable, making the applicant ineligible for temporary housing assistance, or the damage did not meet the minimal threshold.  Many of these have been appealed and either FEMA will conduct a second inspection or the applicant can provide an assessment from his or her own contractor, or proof that the property has been condemned by the local government.
  • 13.5%  Applicant said that he or she did not have to move during repairs – often applicants misunderstand this question and when they realize they have to move out during repairs become eligible.
  • 10.7%  Inspector could not get in touch to schedule an inspection – often because applicant was in a shelter and is now living somewhere else and has not updated contact information with FEMA.  Applicants can call the helpline and schedule an inspection.
  • 5.6%  Another household member is already receiving assistance
  • 3.0%  Failed ID verification – if applicant did not fill out application with a middle initial, but the initial is on the Social Security Card, the verification will fail, for example.

Homeowners with insurance often receive an initial denial until they can document the amount they’re getting from their insurance company and that there is a funding gap.

1 Comment

  1. Here is my issue with this: FEMA got an extra 25 billion for damage for this specific hurricane. So yes, why the high denial rate? Where the heck did that money go? They claim there was only 10 billion worth of damage, they deny claims with 25 billion to use.

    This is why Dr. Paul voted no… he knew it was a black hole eating another 25 billion in taxpayer money without his district seeing that extra money in assistance.

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