FEMA fouling up in East Texas

The people of East Texas are not happy with the assistance they have gotten from FEMA since Hurricane Rita devastated their cities.

Widespread confusion and inconsistency over who is entitled to grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is inspiring Chambers County officials to tell residents affected by Hurricane Rita to appeal to statewide assistance for help.

“There’s no rhyme or reason why some are getting it and some are not,” said County Commissioner Judy Edmonds. “I think it all depends on who you get when you fill out an application.”

County Judge Jimmy Sylvia appealed to residents who had experienced problems in dealing with FEMA to contact senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, along with Congressman Ron Paul, who represents Chambers County.

“We were declared 100 percent disaster county, and I was told we would be treated just like Katrina victims and that all households in Chambers County would receive $2,000 in emergency funds,” Sylvia said in the press release. “Some have received it, others have not. I encourage those of you who have had problems with FEMA to contact your federal representatives…”


Jeanette Rhame, a resident of Hankamer, said it seemed FEMA phone representatives had been inadequately trained.

“First they said I was not under an mandatory evacuation, then it was that we have insurance so we’re not entitled to the $2,000,” she said. “But I had expenses too. I had to leave, find food to eat and a place to sleep.”

Ross Fredenburg, a FEMA public affairs officer, acknowledged that some applicants had been given incorrect information concerning the availability of financial assistance to them.

“Some people are being inappropriately told they are being denied assistance and that’s something that shouldn’t be happening,” Fredenburg said.


“I know some that have home insurance have no damage to their house and yet they receive $2,000,” Edmonds said. “I have seen others that had damage but they have been denied.”

“I got word that our people are going to be treated just like Katrina evacuees because there was a mandatory evacuation,” Sylvia added. “We’ve talked to FEMA officials and I don’t know — there’s still a lot of confusion, so we’re going up ladder to elected officials.”


Chambers County is not the only area that has expressed frustration over FEMA assistance.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who wore a bulletproof vest while he attended meetings in Jasper, Newton, Deweyville and Buna on Monday. He plans to visit Orange, Vidor, Kountze and Woodville on Tuesday.

Brady spokeswoman Sarah Stephens said Brady had received a death threat, but wouldn’t go into specifics. She said the Texas Department of Public Safety asked Brady to wear the vest.

As Brady stepped up to the church altar, four DPS troopers lined up in front of the lectern, separating the congressman and other federal officials from the rural residents who say their needs have been neglected.

Calvin Ebner, 78, said those who were honest on aid applications have been denied $2,000 in FEMA money while those who cheated got a check. Ebner ran a Deweyville Christmas tree farm and restaurant before Rita hit.

“The problem seems to be that some of those who answered questions truthfully are not getting the $2,000,” he said, adding that a FEMA representative told him some had been denied because of information entered into a computer program that figures a formula upon which aid amounts are based. “Is there not someone who can circumvent a stupid computer program and do what is right?”

I recognize that any relief effort like this will have bumps in the road, and I recognize that FEMA’s resources are strained due to Hurricane Katrina. That said, it’s been more than two weeks since Rita made landfall, and we all knew that it was coming for quite some time before that. They need to do better than this.

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5 Responses to FEMA fouling up in East Texas

  1. David in NY says:

    Just goes to show that all those failed liberal programs like FEMA should be replaced by a voucher system run by Halliburton or by a tax cut. Then two or three years from now, those who have lost their homes could turn in their vouchers for a shovel or two to dig themselves out and spend their $200 tax refund on a new tent. /snark

    My source for this being the Republican’s plan is a front page article in the NY Times today. Hope even Texans get fed up with this stuff.

  2. FEMA fouling up in East Texas

    FEMA fouling up in East Texas

  3. rhonda hinson says:

    I have applied for aide from fema due to RITA and have called at least once every 2 days every time I call they tell me something different I lived 3 weeks in my home without electrity all my food was spoiled and i have water damage to my roof and ceiling and recieved a letter from fema stating i am an eligible for assistance. I called and was told I had to make corrections on my application by writing a few days ago was told someone from fema would be by to asses damages just wish they would make up their minds I can not work due to medical problems and waiting for ss disablity to make a descion on my case I am running out of money and only thanks to the red cross and the military that was great in our time of need I will have something to eat due to all the expenses I will not be able to pay my water nor electric bill I know everyone here has surferred. one other thing I did not stay here in my home because I wanted too when we were told to get out there was no gas left to buy and i had no money to get out far enough to find a place to stay. We surffered the heat and the bugs and I would just like for the people at FEMA to live like we in Newton TX have lived the past 3 weeks then maybe they would be a little more understanding…
    Thank you for letting me have my say one the matter….

  4. Bonnie L. Stephens says:

    I am with you, we lost everything don’t even have a car, and we eat one day and skip two just to survive. My husband is totally disabled and try living on one paycheck a month,he needs knee replacement sugury and can barely walk.I had to stop my blood pressure meds and other meds so we can make it! Got a bad toothache and couldn’t even get it pulled because my blood pressure was so high so I’ll just suffer til we get help if ever I agree katrina was horrible but rita wasn’t a piece of cake!! I haven’t been able to sleep a full night since the hurricane, can’t anyone help us? I could really tell some stories,and before it’s all over with I WILL even the president will hear from me (or someone at the Whitehouse)I have all my notes and brochures from 99.9% KATRINA info, yes i’m angry(very) and hurricane season is just arounnd the corner.We filed for SBA back in October and still awaiting an answer what’s the hold up?I’m to the point of making a sign and stand in the street for help.Where’s the love?Guess we’ll have to move to Irac,Iran,Isreal,or somewhere like that to get help,and that’s sad!It breaks my heart to know how proud I was to be a texan and we opened our arm’s to those from katrina and my own state is putting us at the bottom of the list!!I will pack up and leave this God forsaken place as soon as I am able!God bless those of you in my predicament and when God blesses me you will be blessed also!

  5. Shirley says:

    I am so sorry that you all got the shaft instead of help. That is par for the course. I am a Katrina Hurricane victim who had to evacuate and did not recieve the funds for evacuation promised by FEMA. In fact we were told that we are too late! Although we applied right after the return home from evacuation. I also have health troubles, my husband is disabled and I am the main breadwinner. I know how hard things can get. I will be praying for you all. After all, God is a better provider than FEMA could every be.

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