Fourteen victims of Hurricane Dolly will get a second chance at getting disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) thanks to a court ruling in the Rio Grande Valley.
In early August Judge Hilda G. Tagle ordered FEMA to publish the standards used for determining eligibility for disaster relief assistance and reconsider the victims’ requests for assistance using the new standards.
The decision came after a lawsuit filed in November 2008 by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) on behalf of La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and fourteen low-income victims of Hurricane Dolly. The Rio Grande Valley residents were denied FEMA benefits because of the conditions of their homes prior to the disaster. The only explanation the residents received for their denials was that their homes suffered “insufficient damage.”
According to the original lawsuit, it is FEMA’s policy to deny housing repair assistance to homes that were in substandard condition before the storm because any damage during the disaster was caused by the quality of the home. This approach to disaster aid prevents low-income families from receiving assistance that they qualify for and need for their health and safety.
“This is great news for these families,” said TRLA Executive Director David Hall. “But there are thousands of other disaster victims that were denied aid and should be given a second chance for assistance.”
After hurricanes Dolly and Ike devastated coastal areas this summer, thousands of Texas families applied for federal aid to rebuild their lives and repair their homes. In the Rio Grande Valley more than 38,000 families have applied for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Dolly. Approximately half of those families had their applications denied. Tagle’s decision only applies to the families named in TRLA’s lawsuit.
Added Hall, “Just because some families don’t have the resources to live in luxury doesn’t mean they are less deserving of federal aid after a disaster. In fact, these are the families that have needed FEMA’s help the most.”