WKYT Investigates: FEMA’s response in Eastern Kentucky

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been on the ground in Eastern Kentucky for two months.
WKYT Investigates: FEMA’s response in Eastern Kentucky
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 3:39 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Western Kentucky tornado victims know how difficult it can sometimes be to get help fast.

FEMA workers continue to say the financial aid is coming, in an even larger amount than what we saw in Western Kentucky.

The organization has approved aid for about 6,500 people in the first month after the devastation, almost triple the number of households that received money from FEMA after the tornadoes in Western Kentucky.

“It’s geography, it’s the infrastructure that’s there and their support element that sometimes the requirements are not as great from one disaster to the other. And that’s why it’s very difficult and sometimes it appears to be slow just because we’re meeting the survivors where they are and trying to fit our programs and other federal agencies programs into helping them jumpstart their recovery,” explains Brett Howard, with FEMA. “Western Kentucky was a wind event. Eastern Kentucky a flooding event. Usually what you find, and what we’ve found true to be in Western Kentucky is a majority of the homeowners were insured for wind-related damages, and there was a lot of insurance in Western Kentucky as opposed to Eastern Kentucky where you have a flood event. Flood insurance is usually not, never covered on a homeowners’ insurance policy, so there’s not a lot of insurance. You see a large discrepancy in the numbers.”

WKYT pulled the numbers - there’s also a large discrepancy in the number of homeowners who withdrew applications. In Western Kentucky, 44% of claims were withdrawn, duplicates, or did not respond to FEMA’s follow-ups with their initial applications.

“In Western Kentucky, their insurance covered their needs. It met their needs, so they didn’t have anything for FEMA or another federal agency to assist them with and they withdrew. We find quite often more than we would like that when we get to a homeowner or a survivor to perform our home assessment, our inspection of the home, and the damages we’re being told that, ‘I never called you. Why are you here?’ so we run into that more than we would like,” notes Howard.

35% of claims in Western Kentucky were denied because they were in un-designated counties or because FEMA workers referred them somewhere else. FEMA partners with the Small Business Administration, the USDA, and HUD to help victims.

Claims are still being evaluated out of Eastern Kentucky. The current deadline to apply for aid has been extended to October 28, 2022.