People who applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster assistance after Hurricane Harvey should get in touch with state contractors.
The Texas General Land Office last week said it was having trouble reaching thousands of Hurricane Harvey victims who may qualify for help through home repair programs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has identified about 73,000 Texans who may qualify for the land office’s Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program, land office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said.
A call center is reaching out to those 73,000 who had applied for disaster assistance and who seem to be a good match for the program.
But only about 30 percent of the phone calls from the center are being answered, Eck said. Applicants might not recognize the phone number or perhaps are using a different number since Harvey hit Texas, she said.
Also, rumors are circulating that the phone calls are a scam, making some applicants suspicious, Eck said.
The land office and its contractors are sending emails to the applicants who had email addresses, Eck said. The email asks them to call a number to opt into the program.
The hotline is getting more than 2,000 calls a day.
And if applicants don’t answer the email, the land office and its contractors still will try to contact them, Eck said.
The Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program is not a complete repair program, and it’s limited to making $20,000 worth of repairs, Eck said.
The land office is managing five immediate disaster housing assistance programs besides the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program. The other programs are Multi-Family Lease and Repair, Direct Leasing, Manufactured Housing Options and Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair.
Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair offers $60,000 worth of repair and takes about eight days of work, while the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program only offers $20,000 and takes about two days of work. Neither one will completely repair a home, and both are considered temporary fixes to allow residents to stay in their homes while making other repairs.
While the land office may legitimately be able to attribute some of this problem to suspicion about the calls among applicants, part of it is caused by the fact that it took about four months to get the “immediate” aid program underway.
Clearly people have moved on and aren’t expecting to hear anything about their applications.
Be that as it may, the money is there and qualified applicants should make sure they get it.
• Michael A. Smith