Local News

FEMA letter: Roofless Dunn home ineligible for aid

Posted May 3, 2011 5:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2011 11:18 a.m. EDT

— 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."

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 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."