(LEX 18) — As Eastern Kentucky flood victims work to figure out their next steps, Governor Andy Beshear is getting frustrated about what he says is slow help or unfair denials from FEMA. He said in his briefing today that they've had a history of denying too many people and he wants it to change. A FEMA spokesperson said people shouldn't take a denial letter as the final word, that they could still take steps to get their applications approved.
At his briefing Thursday, Governor Beshear said he had heard stories of denials that just didn't make sense.
"I talked to somebody whose 82-year-old grandmother was told at a site visit that everything was okay, all of the documents were there, only to get denied later that night through an email," he said.
Beshear said he is grateful that there are so many FEMA representatives on the ground and that individual assistance was approved so quickly, but he said they need to see better outcomes. He said FEMA has approved 19.4 million dollars for 2,701 households so far, but he said many others have come back denied.
"Too many people are being denied. Not enough people are being approved. And this is the time that FEMA's got to get it right, to change what has been a history of denying too many people and not providing enough dollars and to get it right here," Beshear said.
A FEMA representative sent out a statement saying that a denial doesn't necessarily mean applicants won't get assistance.
“If you were denied assistance, that is not necessarily the end of the road. Something as simple as a missing document can cause an application to be deemed ineligible. The system isn’t perfect, and we know that the bureaucracy can be frustrating. Under the leadership for Administrator Criswell, FEMA is actively working to reduce barriers and cut red tape across all of our programs. But in the meantime, FEMA is calling applicants to help them get back on the road to recovery, and we encourage anyone who may have been initially denied to call us back or visit a nearby Disaster Recovery Center where FEMA personnel will work with you to figure out what we need to continue working on your application," the statement said. "We know these are incredibly difficult times, and we want to help you. We will continue to work to ensure that every eligible applicant receives every dollar of assistance legally possible,"
They have opened disaster recovery centers in six counties where people can register for help, check their application, or get guidance on how to move forward after a denial.
The centers are:
- Breathitt County: Breathitt Library – 1024 College Ave, Jackson, KY 41339
- Clay County – Oneida Elementary School, 435 Newfound Rd., Oneida, KY 40972
- Knott County: Knott County Sport Plex - 450 Kenny Champion Loop #8765 Leburn, KY 41831
- Letcher County: Letcher County Recreation Center – 1505 Jenkins Rd., Whitesburg, KY 41858
- Perry County, Hazard Community and Technical College, 1 Community College Dr., Hazard, KY 41701
- Pike County: Dorton Community Center –112 Dorton Hill Rd., Jenkins KY 4172
"If you're denied, go and look these people in the eye. I've been told that they can reopen your claim without you having to appeal, though I want you to appeal if you're denied and they can tell you everything you need," Beshear said.
Beshear said he talked with FEMA representatives on the ground in Eastern Kentucky and at the top in Washington and says they all seem to want to make sure help gets where it needs to go, but that something is getting hung up in the middle.
"If I sound frustrated it's not that I'm not grateful. It's that these people need help and I want them to get the help," he said.