Flood victims denied assistance

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Despite the recent disaster declaration those affected by the historic flood have been denied assistance from FEMA. This is a picture of Thomasville after the flood waters rose and destroyed the homes of most of those that live in the town of Thomasville. Others in the county that have lost their homes due to the flood have also been denied assistance.
Kathy Huddleston

With the disaster declaration made by President Trump, one would think that victims of the historical flood of May 30 would soon be receiving financial assistance to help them get their lives back on track, to help them have some kind of relief to the devastation they had to endure. However, everyone in Thomasville and others in Oregon County who lost their houses to flood waters, have been denied assistance.

The South Missourian News visited with three families that have recently been denied financial assistance: Rodger and Becky Shelton, Gabe and Becka Trobaugh and Paul Smith.

The reasoning behind this denial is that Thomasville and much of Oregon County is a sanctioned area.

“Because we are a sanctioned community or county, there is no money,” said Rodger Shelton.

Sanctioned means that you are not covered for national flood insurance. However, if the community was a part of the national flood insurance, FEMA would not be needed because it would be covered under the insurance.

A concern is why FEMA has been put in place to help the community, but no assistance is being awarded to those that have lost their homes to the flood.

Shelton stated that FEMA encouraged citizens to become a non-sanctioned county. However, this would require more regulations than what are in place now.

A non-sanctioned county would be quite different from how it is now. For instance, if a resident decided to build a porch, instead of just building one, they would have to get permits to do so.

After some digging, Becky Shelton was told that if the county was signed up as non-sanctioned, that they “could” help those affected, but in the event of another flood, not this one.

Smith stated that he was informed that if the county joined that then if they rebuild or relocate, then they would help them in the next disaster.

Rodger Shelton also informed The South Missourian News that one catch of the assistance from FEMA is that they will only pay one time in the event of a disaster such as for a flood. If a family or individual receives money from FEMA after a flood, they would not receive assistance again.

Those who have received funds have received between $300 to $1,000. However, this does not even begin to put a dent in what is needed for houses to be repaired.

The Trobuagh’s were approved for $363.01 for home repair assistance. According to the letter they received the amount “which is provided for help for essential repairs that will allow you to occupy your home.”

Rodger Shelton stated that he would like to know why this foundation is being supported by tax money that has no purpose. “What is their purpose? They do not help in a disaster because the only way you can get help, is to have already had insurance through the national flood association.”

If those affected by floods had flood insurance, FEMA would not be needed for the assistance.

However, if they had flood insurance, victims would only receive $33,000 to replace their homes. Premiums are approximately $5,000 a year. “Had we lived in our house for 35 years and paid $5,000 a year, that is $165,000 worth of insurance that we would have collected $33,000 from,” said Shelton.

Some residents affected by the flood have also been denied assistance because of lack of proof of occupying the residence at the time. Becka stated they also went through this process and had to send multiple forms to prove they owned and occupied their home. However, the Shelton’s were never asked to prove occupancy of their home. Becka stated they had to send in personal property taxes, electric bill, copy of a driver’s license, notary, voter registration and a letter from an attorney.

Rodger was not asked for his paper work to show residency, but was asked for a receipt for a chainsaw he had purchased. Smith was not asked to show any paper work. They all had the same inspector.

Becka stressed that FEMA knew in advance that the county was sanctioned and the organization still held meetings for Thomasville and made promises for assistance in this disaster. During this process the families have all talked to FEMA representative’s multiple times throughout the day, in addition to many having to miss work to meet with FEMA inspectors.

Part of the frustration these families are feeling is that FEMA has set up a station in Alton knowing that there is nothing they can do to help the victims of the flood.

“The money they have wasted down here for their command posts, for them to say no, they could have rebuilt Thomasville,” said Rodger.

The Shelton’s were told they would not get help because they would get help from Small Business Association (SBA). The SBA helps to provide lower interest loans. However, the Trobaugh’s were denied a loan through the SBA because Gabe has been on workman’s compensation because of recent back surgery. However, they were told this would “kick back” to FEMA and they would find them a grant. Becka explained that when she contacted FEMA that she was told they would not be able to help them rebuild. Becka informed them they would be relocating to a non-sanctioned area in Alton city limits and a FEMA representative informed her they would send money to relocate, $26,000 for their lost house and approximately $6,000 for personal contents of the house. She stated they even explained the appeal process to her. She explained that a different representative went though this with her husband, Gabe. The following Friday they were informed they would not be receiving assistance and the representative they talked to could not find the notes pertaining to the previous conversations.

Smith stated he was denied by SBA and was told the reason was because Thomasville was a sanctioned community.

During the discussion, all families discussed how grateful they are for the help from the community during this time. Becka stated there are no words to show the gratitude that is felt during this time. Rodger stated the community has helped tremendously, especially where the government has not stepped in. Becka further stated that everything now in their house was made possible through donations from the community. They also praised community leaders for their efforts during this time.

Assistance from local churches, businesses, individuals and organizations such as Ozark Action, Inc. have been a tremendous help to those affected.

Those affected by this disaster are not looking for a hand out but a hand up as this has taken away what they all have worked hard for to provide for their families.

Becka would like to start a letter writing campaign to the Jimmy Carter Foundation in hopes that maybe it would spark interest in helping to rebuild Thomasville. Thomasville is one of oldest towns that was established in Missouri.

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