Bayou City

Waiting for a FEMA Inspection? It Could Take a Month.

FEMA inspectors are responsible for covering a disaster area that includes 39 counties along the Texas Gulf Coast.
FEMA inspectors are responsible for covering a disaster area that includes 39 counties along the Texas Gulf Coast. Photo by Brandon Navarro
As thousands turn to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief because of Hurricane Harvey, the federal agency is warning Texans that financial assistance will not arrive immediately.

Homeowners or renters waiting for FEMA inspectors, the agency employees who visit homes and properties in person to approve grants for financial assistance, may have to wait as long as 30 days after applying because of the high demand and expansive area hit by Harvey, said agency spokesman Peter Herrick.

FEMA has received more than 760,000 applications from Texas for disaster assistance. Each applicant must be approved by one of FEMA’s 2,056 inspectors in the state, who are patrolling an area that includes 39 counties along the Texas Gulf Coast. As of Wednesday, inspectors had visited 181,158 homes and businesses, according to Herrick.
Unfortunately, some homeowners in Houston are already accustomed to waiting for FEMA assistance. The agency was criticized after Hurricane Ike in 2008 for its slow response in providing mobile homes and other assistance to affected residents. In the year following Ike, Texans received more than $2.5 billion in federal aid, with $500 million going specifically to housing recovery. In less than a month since Hurricane Harvey landed along the Gulf Coast, federal agencies have already shelled out more than $1 billion in relief grants, with $430 million toward housing.

In the meantime, FEMA is urging residents not to wait to begin repairs, especially if dealing with potentially hazardous flood debris. Before clearing out belongings, residents should take photos of everything that was damaged and hang on to all receipts from purchases associated with repairs.

The best way to apply for relief is through FEMA’s Harvey disaster assistance page. Some residents have reportedly been put on hold for hours after calling the agency. Those in need can also visit one of FEMA’s mobile disaster relief centers across Texas.

As a general reminder, FEMA inspectors will never ask for money after an inspection, as some scam artists have reportedly tried since Harvey arrived.
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Joseph Fanelli is a reporting fellow at the Houston Press with an interest in education, crime and eccentric people everywhere.