OBERLIN — Residents and officials from Oberlin are urging the federal government to speed up its response to flooding after Tropical Storm Barry left many homes damaged.
Flood victims pleaded for relief Friday during a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La 4th District).
Dorothy Hebert had 12-14 inches of water in her home and is now living in a camper in her front yard.
“I have 100 percent damage,” Hebert said. “My whole house is gone. I have mold in my house, but there is no money coming from FEMA.”
Hebert said United Way and Catholic Charities have been helping her and other flood victims try to dry out and repair their homes.
Oberlin Alderman Bobby Thomas said about 134 people, many who have been displaced and are now living with family and friends, have registered their homes as having flood damage. The majority of those residences are on Fifth Avenue, he said.
“They’re getting help, but its just a slow process because of all the red tape,” Thomas said. “United Way and Catholic Charities are assisting them. They come in every Tuesday and Thursday to do assessments and try to get people back in their homes. It just takes time.”
Four teams from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (GOHSEP) recently conducted an assessment of the storm damage and are compiling their data to present to Gov. John Bel Edwards who will pass the information on to FEMA, Thomas said.
Johnson said claims are often a combination of federal and state officials working with individual homeowners to verify claims and get through the red tape.
“The problem is there are so many layers of approval and agencies that need to see the paperwork,” Johnson said.
Each individual claim is handled differently with different stages of processing, he said. He urged flood victims to bring their claims to his offices in Leesville, Natchitoches or Bossier City, to be assigned to case workers.
“We need to find out where the claims are,” he said. “It’s all a process, but people shouldn’t have to wait months and months to get what they need.”
Safeguards that have been put in place to verify claims and prevent fraudulent claims following Hurricane Katrina are causing many of the delays, he said.
Katie Pechon of Triton Relief, a non-profit disaster relief group, said residents are not getting the help they need from officials.
“More state officials need to be aware of what is going on in the district and the area,” she said. “If we can find out about people in a small town needing help on social media, they can to.”
She said about 200 volunteers from Triton Relief, Cajun Navy 2016, Cajun Navy Lake Charles and the Louisiana Coalition for Emergency Response have been working with Oberlin residents to repair their homes. Many of the homes need to be gutted, others have smells and mold, she said.