Local News

FEMA letter: Roofless Dunn home ineligible for aid

Posted May 3, 2011
Updated May 4, 2011

— Federal officials have rejected a Dunn man's application for aid to rebuild his home, which lost its roof and one wall in a tornado last month, because it had "minor damage."

The April 16 storm left two bedrooms and a bathroom in Willie Wrench's home exposed to the elements, and it wiped out his den and kitchen.

Harnett County condemned the home after the tornado, and Wrench has been living for the past two weeks in a trailer he parked in his yard.

Wrench said five representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited him in the days after the storm to get him signed up for aid. A FEMA inspector then walked through what was left of the house to process his application.

"He walked though the house, took pictures and everything, and the last thing he said, 'Willie, you qualify,'" Wrench said Tuesday. "Then, I got this letter."

The letter from FEMA said he didn't qualify for aid.

"Based on your FEMA inspection, we have determined that the disaster has not caused your home to be unsafe to live in," the letter stated. "Although the disaster may have called some minor damage, it is reasonable to expect you or your landlord to make these repairs."

"How is this minor repairs? I ain’t got nothing. How can I stay?" a disconsolate Wrench said. "Maybe I need to get the governor down here and let her stay with me one night."

Willie Wrench with FEMA agent FEMA says roofless Dunn home ineligible for aid

Two of Wrenches neighbors got similar letters, but FEMA spokeswoman Bettina Hutchings said the letters deny aid only for other needs, like medical expenses or moving or storage costs, not for damage to their homes.

"Many may find this letter to be badly worded or confusing," Hutchings said. "That’s why it’s so important for anyone who receives correspondence from FEMA who doesn’t think it makes sense or doesn’t agree with it to go to a FEMA center ... so that someone can explain it perhaps better than this letter does."

FEMA has opened 14 field offices across eastern North Carolina to handle applications for aid in hard-hit communities. People also can call the agency toll-free at 1-800-621-3362 or can apply online.

FEMA often turns down aid applications from people who have insurance coverage, which Wrench does. His insurer has offered him $94,000 to raze the home and rebuild from scratch, and he was hoping FEMA would pick up any additional rebuilding costs.

"What is FEMA for if they can’t help you at a time like this? I mean, they’re just wasting money having people out here signing you up, and then you don’t get nothing," he said. "It causes hard feelings, mixed feelings and everything else."


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  • gallbury May 4, 2011

    You know, it's funny, ironcally of course. The American people invest in this country by paying taxes, which the govt. can use for whatever ill-conceived notion that they see fit, except to help "their investors" in their time of need. There is "slways" money to fight wars, even enough money to "kill" Bin Laden (taking the long assumption of that actually having happened), but natural disaster money has to be begged for, applied for, and siphoned out, and then having to run the risk of being turned down for any one of many various and sundry reasons. Who is the real terrorist?

  • FromClayton May 4, 2011

    i hear what you are saying about fema vs. insurance... but i'm going to take a different view...

    I think it is the ones with insurance, good hard working people who pay their taxes and are smart enough to buy insurance, who SHOULD get the help. Insurance wont even begin to cover everything they have lost, and I think they should get help from FEMA. I dont think you should have to be poor and destitute before fema will help.

    of all the govt. handouts and "entitlement" programs the govt does, this is one that i am NOT mad about. Because to qualify for this one you have to been involved in an emergency.... It's not like they asked the tornado to hit them...they were just unlucky.

    so let's help them. I'm cool with that.

    thats what i think anyway.

  • Capt Mercury May 4, 2011

    I'd bet my bottom dollar this guy was complaining about government giveaways before the tornado. Now, he has his hand out and expects FEMA to cover damages his insurance does not cover. Yes, FEMA needs to get off it's duff and send out letters that are appropriate to the situation. They do not need to provide insurance from natural disasters.

  • obx_native13 May 4, 2011

    "His insurer has offered him $94,000 to raze the home and rebuild from scratch, and he was hoping FEMA would pick up any additional rebuilding costs."

    Stop looking for someone to pay your deductible.

    Also, all the comments about flooding. True, homeowner's insurance does not pay for flooding, but if you know you live in an area prone to flooding wouldn't you purchase the extra insurance?? I live in a Hurricane prone area, that does flood easily, and common sense tells me that I should probably purchase floor insurance. I guess common sense isn't so common.

  • ibbott41 May 4, 2011

    I don’t understand how Fema works. In Sanford NC. They are giving cash to people, who lost electric power during the storm, At least Fema please ask for “Identification”. Lots of people are getting money for free

  • Nope May 4, 2011

    It sounds like the real preoblem may be whether he is under-insured. You have to keep your insurance amount to the current replacement cost. The gov't should not have to pay.

  • WritNEWlaws May 4, 2011

    Like I said........ FEMA who????

  • mad_dash May 4, 2011

    Why do I need to be smart and have insurance, if I can just get FEMA to pay for it all??

  • imsosorry May 4, 2011

    Homeowners will only pay what the dwelling is worth at the time of the damage, not what it will cost to rebuild. My parents lost their home and vehicle, since it was a mobile home they got little money, but were still denied by fema.

  • kre2 May 4, 2011

    This man makes me sick. He does want HELP, he wants a HAND-OUT. People think that FEMA is here for suplemental insurance. It is here to help people who have no means...not someone who has an insurance policy. Maybe is there was a flood, then FEMA would step in.