Tropical Storm Imelda Left 5 Dead in Texas and Many Flooded. Will FEMA Aid Come Next?
While Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for Tropical Storm Imelda, it does not qualify individuals for financial assistance. That will have to come from FEMA.
Five deaths are linked to floods from Tropical Storm Imelda, the worst storm in Texas since Hurricane Harvey and one of the wettest tropical cyclones in the nation’s history, according to the National Weather Service.
Imelda dumped as much as 43 inches of rain in some parts of southeast Texas, according to the National Weather Service. In comparison, Harvey dropped about 60 inches of rain.
Although Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency Thursday morning, it does not qualify individuals for financial aid. That would have to come from a federal disaster declaration, which would release federal dollars for public assistance or individual assistance. Federal Emergency Management Agency agents began doing damage assessments Monday morning, said a FEMA spokesperson. It's unclear how long that will take, the spokesperson said.
Public assistance is money reimbursed to state and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations for the cost of disaster-related repairs and protective measures, according to the FEMA website. The affected area must reach a little over $37 million in public damages to qualify, according to Seth Christensen, a representative for the Texas Division of Emergency Management. For individual assistance, paid out to individuals for housing and other disaster-related needs, there need to be 800 homes that took in 18 inches or more of water and are not covered by insurance, Christensen said.
In the meantime, community members and local organizations are helping how they can. A line formed around First Baptist Church in Winnie on Sunday as people waited to get food, water and other supplies, according to The Beaumont Enterprise.
In Beaumont, Satchel Smith is being lauded as a hero for keeping the Homewood Suites in Beaumont up and running, according to CNN. The storm trapped the college student and 90 other guests in the hotel. For nearly two days, Smith was the hotel’s only employee, the story says. He handled everything, including maintenance, room service and keeping everyone fed.
President Donald Trump was in Houston on Sunday for an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He touched on the recent disaster during the event.
"The entire American nation is standing by your side," Trump said. "We love you, we support you and we will be there every step of the way."
Trump vowed to make the federal government “totally available” for Imelda relief, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Trump administration was criticized for the handling of disaster relief funds after Harvey. A year after Congress approved $16 billion in disaster funding for various areas impacted by disasters — most of the money allocated for Texas and Puerto Rico — recipients were still waiting on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to publish rules governing how those grant funds may be used.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/09/23/tropical-storm-imelda-leaves-texans-wondering-if-theyll-get-fema-money/.