The reality of dealing with FEMA: Emergency assistance hard to come by
Seven months ago, Oregon was set ablaze. The damage to land on the scale of millions of acres and destruction of thousands of homes can’t be overstated. Anyone venturing near the vicinity of popular vacation spots like Detroit Lake or Sisters can probably give account to the incredible changes in scenery.
The following fact makes the aftermath of the fires even more tragic: out of 24,000 Oregonians who applied for federal disaster assistance, about 57% of them were denied, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). What’s worse, a large portion of these denials came from low-income applicants. These trends are apparently not anything new. This predicament facing Oregonians is on par with FEMA’s 60% denial rate after the 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico, and the denial of a quarter of applicants after hurricane Harvey.
A complex and demanding application process is apparently common in order to receive aid, the last thing victims want to navigate. According to OPB, legal aid attorneys say that applicants almost always need an attorney to help organize and deliver documents and continually follow up with FEMA representatives. But in states like Oregon where natural disasters are less common, it is difficult to find private or nonprofit attorneys experienced in FEMA assistance.
Hopefully, this cycle of inequity gets exposed soon enough. Although nonprofits like the Oregon Community Foundation exist, people should be able to count on their government to lend a hand— it should be an urgent priority to fix an agency with the aim of helping Americans get back on their feet.
Shion Britten is a junior at Southridge High School and enjoys playing the trumpet, baseball & hiking.