Temporary housing units from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — including the “trailers” for which the agency is well-known — will soon be available to Western Kentucky tornado survivors, FEMA confirmed Wednesday.
FEMA has authorized units for survivors from Caldwell, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg and Warren counties, agency spokeswoman Deanna Frazier told The Courier Journal.
Frazier said FEMA authorized the units at the request of state and local officials. The number of units to be made available has not yet been decided, but FEMA will spend “as much money as is needed to help survivors recover,” she said.
News of the incoming units comes as displaced survivors of the deadly Dec. 10 tornadoes and the subsequent New Year’s Day storms grapple with limited housing options in Kentucky’s disaster zones.
FEMA as of Wednesday had approved $8.8 million in relief funds, with about $7 million of that sum already disbursed to survivors for rental assistance, emergency home repairs and personal property replacement. The Small Business Administration has approved another $7.7 million in low-interest loans, Frazier said.
But the rebuilding process will be slow — and costly, given pandemic-induced spikes in construction costs. And for those looking to rent in the meantime, local officials say few options remain in the counties hammered by the storms.
That’s where FEMA’s temporary units come into play.
Frazier said the units may be available up to 18 months from Kentucky’s Dec. 11 emergency declaration for survivors who remain eligible, but they are not meant to be permanent housing.
There are three forms the units could take:
- Direct lease: FEMA may lease vacant residential properties as temporary housing and pay landlords directly for the cost to house survivors.
- Multifamily lease and repair: FEMA may lease entire apartment complexes damaged by the storm. The agency would then repair the buildings, with repaired units opening up to survivors as they become available.
- Mobile units: FEMA may provide temporary housing in the form of manufactured, or mobile, homes; travel trailers; and nonmotorized recreational vehicles, such as a “fifth wheel” towable RV.
Any mobile units would be placed on private property or commercial pads, as permittable by local regulations and ordinances and flood plain requirements. This may include such survivors’ property or preexisting mobile home parks. If no such options exist within a reasonable commuting distance for survivors, FEMA may establish and maintain its own mobile home park.
To be considered for a temporary housing unit, survivors must apply for FEMA benefits by the Feb. 11, 2022, deadline. Through this process, FEMA will assess damage to a survivor’s home for both renters and homeowners. FEMA will then notify survivors if they are eligible for the agency’s temporary housing.
Next, survivors will need to participate in a preplacement interview with FEMA to verify their need. Survivors must show FEMA they have a plan to obtain permanent housing.
From there, FEMA may assess a survivor’s property to see if a mobile unit can be placed there. If so, FEMA will deliver and install a unit, hooking up sewage and electric, before making a final inspection and turning keys over to the survivor. Survivors are then responsible for utility payments.
Any survivors placed into FEMA’s temporary housing must meet with the agency periodically to demonstrate their continued need, as well as their progress in finding a permanent home.
Frazier did not provide a timeline for when Kentucky survivors should first expect units to be assigned. Timing will be based on needs’ assessments, she said.
FEMA has referred 10,700 survivors to its assistance programs, but just over 1,300 thus far have had direct payments approved, Frazier said.
Part of the problem, she said, are minor errors on survivors’ applications that are resulting in denial letters, such as a transposed number or a misspelled name. Other survivors have been denied because they were not able to provide their insurance or banking information, she said.
Frazier said she encourages survivors to not give up on their benefits, adding that they should look at the bottom of their denial letters for the specific problems with their initial application. Survivors may appeal a denial within 60 days of the date on their denial letter, Frazier said.
“People need to read the entire letter and go all the way down because it will tell you why you were denied,” she said. “And, if you were denied, what information is required to complete your application. You know — what’s missing, what’s the problem.”
How to apply for FEMA benefits
There are four ways to apply for FEMA assistance:
1. Over the phone: 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-621-FEMA
2. Online: https://www.disasterassistance.gov
4. Visit one of FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center locations to get in-person help. For an updated list of locations, as well as information on mobile assistance centers, visit www.fema.gov/disaster/4630.
How to appeal a denial letter from FEMA
All appeals must be submitted in writing. Appeals must be submitted within 60 days of the date on a survivor’s denial letter.
In the written appeal, survivors must include:
- Their full name
- Disaster number DR-4630-KY
- The address of their primary residence that was impacted by the storm
- Their current phone number and address
- An explanation of their appeal. This would be where a survivor addresses the issue with their application noted at the bottom of their denial letter.
Survivors must mark each page of their appeal with their unique FEMA registration number. Survivors would have received this number when they first applied for FEMA assistance.
There are three ways to submit an appeal:
1. Fax: 1-800-827-8112, ATTN: FEMA
2. Mail: FEMA National Processing Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville, Md. 20782-7055
3. Online: Go to https://www.disasterassistance.gov to open your online account