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For Shame…


UPDATE:  I found this on MSNBC — this is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been looking for all morning.  What a small, pro-active step that had such amazing results.  Bravo! 

I received this from the husband of a regular reader, and I wanted to share it with everyone.  We see the scant news tidbits in the newspaper or on the television news, but unless we are in the Gulf Coast region and have lived through the mess that was left behind after Hurricane Katrina…well, most of America really has no idea.

So, what have I been doing for the last six months?

Well, six months ago, I hit the road trying to get my family out of the way of a big storm. Ended up 400 miles away from new orleans. My oldest son and I came back a couple of weeks later ready to try to start putting things back together and build. It was like running into a brick wall.

For the past six months, I’ve been banging my head against this wall, yelling and screaming..and it hurts.

The National Flood Insurance Program run by FEMA (pardon me while I scream) has sent my claim back to the adjustor twice for revisions that have no effect on the settlement amount and they still can’t tell me when I can expect a settlement of my claim. This was insurance that I paid for. I applied for disaster assistance and was promptly buried in paperwork, and now FEMA has sent me a letter telling me I was ineligible for diasater help because I have insurance. Meanwhile, my homeowner’s insurance, who wanted to use their own structural engineer instead of one of the two local engineers that I recommended, has finally agreed that my house leans due to wind rack from the hurricane winds. That only took them five months to figure out. Of course, it only took me and my neighbors about five minutes.

Now it’s just a question of how long it’s going to take to figure out how much this is all going to cost to remedy and how long it’s going to take for them to actually get the settlement check in the mail (if the mail is still working).

I also put in an application for an SBA Personal Disaster Loan. They finally sent someone to look at my house a month ago (that only took five months). The SBA field representative said he would have his report in within a couple of a days and a loan officer from the SBA would contact me within two weeks. After two weeks I called and I was told that a loan officer had not yet been assigned to my case. When I complained, they put my case on some type of "accelerated program", but I still don’t have a loan officer and was told that the reason for this was that they had to put so many people on the accelerated program that it slowed them down (*grin*).

By the time i do collect something from someone, I’m going to have to reapply for it all over again. My roof leaks in several places and, of course, the water gets trapped in certain areas in the structure. I noticed the other day some rotten spots are starting to show. I can’t have anyone do repairs to the roof, because the house is unstable due to structural damage.

One week ago, I finally got the keys to the FEMA trailer that has been sitting in my yard since around Thanksgiving, but have stayed in this unstable house so long that the shaking no longer disturbs me. FEMA told me this trailer sleeps six people. There are seven in my family, and while it might SLEEP six people, what are you supposed to do during the day, ESPECIALLY if it’s raining?

While making all these phone calls to FEMA, SBA, flood insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and all those involved in between, I noticed that my cell phone wasn’t working properly and was getting progressively worse to the point that my phone was dropping around 50% of the calls that I made or received. I talked to my wife and sons and found that they were having similar problems so I called to file a complaint with the cell company, and after some heated words with the company’s representative, she suggested that I read the agreement and I might notice that they do not guarantee service.

I thought I paid for all of this…my cell phones, my insurance (over $2500 for a year’s coverage), my taxes…and now my wife is out of work, my house is badly damaged, my business is teetering on the edge, I’m so damned deep in debt and have no clue about how I’m going to pay my bills, and the insurance companies who swore they’d take such good care of me act like they’re doing me a favor when they say "we’re working on it as hard as we can, sir". I told one of them today that that was not a bunch of papers they were diddling around with, but my life.

Oh and you should hear them cringe when I curse from sheer frustration. "How dare you scream and curse about being screwed over?" They were very polite about it.

My wife was laid off in December and applied for unemployment in January. There was some glitch and she was told she would have to report to the local New Orleans office. She came down here from Alabama (400 miles) to do this and was given a phone number to request a debit card for her benefits. When she called this number she was routed to a phone bank someplace besides the United States, which, I suppose, allows the NSA to monitor the call. As many people as there are in Louisiana right now who are out of work and the contract was given to someone overseas?

Sometimes I feel so damned alone, even with all these people out there who say they are so concerned about what is going on. That kind of concern is nice but it doesn’t really do anything. I’ve come across a couple of volunteer groups, some helping to feed people, some actually helping to fix houses. That, in my opinion is true concern, which develops into action.

So, my fellow americans, what have you been doing for the past six months? What are you doing today? How about a phone call? How about a little legal help. As sure as Katrina, I can’t afford a lawyer. How about a little pressure on the federal government not just to answer for their lack of action, but to actually get up and do something. Everytime there’s a war overseas, I see people marching against it. Why don’t I see anyone marching against this war?

This is going on right here in the US of A. Hurricane season is already underway…and those levees in New Orleans and the flood protection that failed all over the Gulf Coast…well, not really fixed and ready for action, is it?

This is a family with whom I have been corresponding since I started blogging here on Firedoglake, and it is because of folks like this that I have tried to keep raising this issue.  These are folks who are hard workers, who want to put their skills to good use, and who feel abandoned by a whole lot of their fellow citizens and their own government.

The whole situation in the Gulf Coast is a mess.  And we’d better all do a whole lot of hoping that another big hurricane doesn’t hit there in the next few months.  That’s not a whole lot to hang your future on for these folks, now is it?

Heckuva job, Bushie.  A may I point out how fab it is that Michael Chertoff is still calling the shots for the HSA and FEMA, since he did such a bang-up job the last time around? 

The George Bush Administration…accountability need not apply.

(Photo via Uncle Greggy.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com