LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — At a press briefing Monday, Governor Andy Beshear struck an optimistic tone when talking about new steps the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has implemented to help flood victims.
"I think FEMA heard us," Governor Beshear said. "I think they see the stories of people that are suffering. I think they hear the frustration of lawmakers."
At a briefing last week, Beshear echoed the frustrations over the frequency in which peoples' claims were denied.
"Not enough people are being approved," he said on August 11. "And this is the time that FEMA's gotta get it right."
The governor briefed Kentuckians Monday after he said he had a meeting with leadership at FEMA. He said for the first time ever, FEMA has implemented a texting program in an effort to reach more flood-impacted Kentuckians.
Beshear also reported that FEMA staff in the field now have the authority to approve claims onsite at disaster recovery centers.
"This is a big step where people know where they can go and where they can talk to people," he said. "So if you've gotten a denial letter, don't let it stop there."
The governor also encouraged flood-impacted Kentuckians to answer their phones when called--even if it's from an unfamiliar number--because FEMA staff are calling people who have had their claims denied.
FEMA has tried to call 4,006 applicants, the governor said. Only 1,508 people have picked up.
Shortly after the governor held his briefing, FEMA representatives held one of their own.
On a call with journalists, they said the agency has paid more than $3.4 million in flood insurance claims to insured Kentuckians. Uninsured survivors have received more than $36 million in FEMA grants.
"The survivors are not alone in this," a representative said. "We are here trying to give you assistance. We just gotta get through the process and the paperwork."
As of Monday afternoon, some form of housing assistance has been provided to 63% of applicants. 73% of applicants have received assistance for other needs, FEMA said.
FEMA representatives said the top reasons a person may be deemed ineligible for benefits are the following:
- Insufficient damage
- Residents did not relocate
- No contact for inspection
- Occupancy not verified
- Identity not verified
- Duplication of applications