It’s going to be a long time before we can really say we have put Hurricane Harvey behind us.
Three months after Hurricane Harvey, local health officials now are beginning to see the storm after the storm.
In Harris County and the other hardest-hit regions of Texas, 17 percent of those who had houses damaged or suffered income loss report that someone in their household has a new or worsening health condition. A sweeping new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation shows a similar proportion feels their own mental health has worsened.
“We’re not anywhere near the end yet,” cautioned Dr. Cindy Rispin, a family physician with the Memorial Hermann Medical Group in League City.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,600 Texans in 24 affected counties to gauge their personal recovery. The report released Tuesday found a region still reeling in ways obvious and hidden.
More than four in 10 residents surveyed for the “Early Assessment of Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on Vulnerable Texans in the Gulf Coast Region” report said their homes had hurricane damage. Three percent reported their homes were destroyed.
Among those whose homes were damaged, nearly half said they had homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, but only 23 percent had flood insurance.
“We’re going to see foreclosures hit. It will probably be people that financially were in a tight spot already,” real estate agent Matthew Guzman said in a recent interview.
Perhaps most ominous is the quiet toll Harvey is still taking, months later, on people’s physical and mental health.
Worse, many storm victims were already uninsured in a state that leads the nation in those without coverage. Even those with coverage complained they cannot afford health care, especially as longtime doctors are no longer nearby when people become displaced. About six in 10 say they have skipped or postponed needed treatment, cut back on medication or struggled to get mental health care.
An executive summary of the poll, with links to all the poll data, is here. Some sobering facts from the summary:
About half of those who have applied for disaster assistance from FEMA or the SBA say their application is still pending or has been denied, and many of those who were denied say they were not told the reason for the denial and were not given information on how to resubmit their application. About a quarter of those whose homes were damaged say they had any flood insurance. Four in ten of those who were affected say they expect none of their financial losses to be covered by insurance or other assistance.
The financial situations of most people affected by Harvey are tenuous. About half of affected residents say they have no savings whatsoever, and another quarter say that if they lost their job or other source of income, their savings would be exhausted in less than 6 months.
Nearly half of affected residents say they are not getting the help they need to recover from the hurricane. Particular areas that stand out where residents say they need more help include applying for disaster assistance and repairing damage to their homes.
Local, county, and state governments receive high marks from residents for their response to Hurricane Harvey so far. Residents are more mixed in their views of how the U.S. Congress has responded, and responses tilt negative when it comes to President Trump’s response. Four in ten affected residents are not confident relief funds will benefit those most in need.