Federal aid not reaching all hurricane victims

The Associated Press

ST. STEPHEN, S.C. -- Federal disaster aid after hurricanes this year isn't helping some residents with heavy losses.

Robert Bobbitt's home here has warped and buckled floors with the stench of mold. His is one of three St. Stephen homes that won't get a cent from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

That's because damage claims from individual homeowners came in well below what was needed to declare a disaster and make FEMA grants available.

So far, about $3 million in federal disaster relief has been given out in South Carolina this hurricane season. That includes the 18 public clean up or utility restoration projects grants that Berkeley County is in line to get.

"FEMA is paying for them to pick up limbs off roads. That's just a trivial thing, something that I could do for my neighbor," said Wendell Cross, who lives next to Bobbitt. "I don't think there's anyone in Berkeley County who lost more personally than we did."

That money does little to help people like Bobbitt and Cross and another neighbor after Gaston dumped 14 inches of rain in St. Stephen. That caused a ditch to overflow with water rising 3 feet and swamping their homes.

The three families had no flood insurance and homeowner's insurance covered relatively minor damage at Bobbitt's home.

Bobbitt received about $1,000 for roof leaks from his homeowner's insurance company. The company then canceled coverage and returned the last quarter's payments because the house was considered a total loss with no insurable value.

In all about a dozen homes in northern Berkeley County had similar problems.

But the damages was not severe or widespread enough, state Emergency Management spokesman Joe Farmer said.

"I'm saddened for these people," he said. "There's little that can be done unless they change the (relief) parameters." People in other states face similar situations, he said.

"We try to make the best possible case for the residents and then see what steps the government takes," said Jason Patno, county emergency preparedness manager. "I just wish we could offer more assistance than we can."





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