When a fire breaks out in a community and the president declares a major disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency opens the door to help. But that help, in congressional design, is very limited.

I believe Jenny Campbell, executive director of the Los Angeles County Community Rehabilitation Organization (LARCRO), said, “Many people have the misconception that FM is there to fix or completely fix everything.” FEMA and other organizations to coordinate long-term recovery for fire-affected communities.

Survivors who are eligible for FEMA assistance can save a few thousand dollars for home repairs or other needs as they work to rebuild their lives. But even those who go through the confusing application process must show that they have had little to do with insurance, income or loan assistance.

According to the Office of Government Accountability, only half of the applicants were approved.

Consider the case of David Harshberger. The Beckkat fire, a three-bedroom apartment in Jupiter Hills, was one of 87 fires on September 18, 2020, as it erupted in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Harshbarger was tempted to try to save the house he had lived in for decades, but all he had to do was put the tank in the tank on the last delivery. He said the fire was moving very fast.

“The fire is like a hurricane, with winds of 300 miles per hour, 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, nothing can stay on the road,” said Harshbarger.

He worked as a prostitute in the film industry for 30 years, and when we visited the property, he pointed to a 48-foot trailer that had been used in many films. All of these items were burned, along with those in a metal storage container.

All that was left was a small rocket made of scrap metal and a few scientific tools, such as rusty metal wheels from some Western chariot wheels. “I had a ‘last Mohikans’ cannon on the side of the house, a large molten fiberglass cannon.

At the time of the fire, Harborberg did what many survivors were advised to do – enrolled in FEMA and applied for assistance through the Individual and Family Program.

But Harshberger did not receive any funding from FEMA. And that’s not surprising.

Millions apply for FEMA cash, receive less than half

Federal Government Accountability Office Last year’s audit It turns out that most applicants have a lot of income or insurance to qualify.

This was the case with Harshbarger. He did not expect to receive financial support from the FAA because he was a guarantor, and the landlord’s policy covered the hotel stay for the first few weeks after the house burned down.

Survivors from 2016 to 2018 received about $ 6 billion in FEMA assistance payments and were housed in 12,805 temporary homes. According to the February 2021 GAO report, most applicants are uninsured and earn less than $ 50,000.

More than half of the 4.4 million people who applied for the FAA Individual and family program Funding is denied, according to a GAO report.

Nearly 2.4 million applicants have had their property returned due to insufficient damage or failure to provide sufficient evidence for their losses.

But between 2016 and 2018, the payments were much lower than the 2 million people approved for individual and family programs. The average homeowner received $ 4,200 and one tenant received $ 1,700.

Confusing directions to apply for SBA loans

The GAO audit provided another point about the obstacles people face in pursuing federal assistance. He said FEMA’s message was too confusing for FA aid applicants to drop out during the process.

The biggest source of confusion is to apply for small business management loans for FEMA assistance applicants to qualify for FEMA Individual and Family Program Assistance – and to deny the loan in whole or in part.

Respect by the Office of Government Accountability

“It’s very confusing. That’s a piece.” [of FEMA rules] That still bothers me, ”said Campbell, CEO of LARCRO.

He said people who do not run small businesses do not understand why they need to apply for a loan from SBA.

According to the Stamford law, FEMA regulations in Congress prohibit FEMA from duplicating assets through income, insurance or credit. So if you have an SBA with internal machinery to lend and manage loans. The direction to look for a loan.

FEMA assistance will not rebuild your damaged home

If a person does not have enough income or insurance to qualify for FMA assistance, that assistance is still very limited.

Assistance is limited to keeping your home safe, and both needs and expenses must be documented. And not every home gets the same amount of maintenance.

For example, some married couples who live in a large house receive less than five unsafe family members.

Fees are $ 36,000. And that’s not enough to replace a burned-out house in Southern California.

Even if only part of the house is on fire, or only part of the roof and smoke is damaged, it may be enough to accommodate a fire-damaged home.

Tenants who have been displaced by accident and do not pay insurance or other rent can receive up to 18 months of housing assistance from FEMA, which can cover housing in lieu of the market rate. In some cases, FM can also provide a manufactured home.

Respect by the Office of Government Accountability

FEMA has a second program offering up to $ 36,000 to eligible homeowners or tenants to meet other needs. Of his Other needs support program FEMA spokeswoman Veronica Verde said it could cover personal property losses, medical expenses, dental or funeral expenses, child care, transportation costs, and mobility. Again, before the FM can make other claims, the applicant must first apply for and reject the SBA loan and have no other insurance or income to cover these matters.

“We can’t duplicate those benefits,” says Verde.

FEMA Useful Non-Financial Benefits for Fire Survivors

One of the most important benefits a person can get from FM is investing in a local disaster management company for different people.

Under the arrangement, professional social workers will interview survivors, assess their needs, browse applications for FM assistance and assist them with mental health counseling, legal aid and even rebuilding their homes. Those services do not come directly from FEMA but from regional and local government networks, donors and nonprofits.

For example, a local FEMA-funded case management agency may receive the proceeds from a fundraiser and distribute them to clients in need.

LARCRO said rehabilitation company Campbell was trying to find residents in Jupiter Hills to take the lead in establishing such an organization. Active at risk by volunteer organizations.

He said we want community leaders to come forward and use this resources to drive this process forward.

And it is not surprising that Campbell has not had such an organization since the Bokbat fire. He said the COVID-19 outbreak made it difficult for groups to form. Some survivors have moved away and are no longer involved in the Pine Hills. And it may take months for the survivors to climb the “heroic and honeymoon” stage to better understand their needs.

In the meantime, more or less the survivors of the Bobbitt fire.

Harshggerger’s daughter Charlie Transu has been volunteering as a liaison for a long-term recovery team, but is no longer ready to take on the leadership role.

Charlie Transu and her father, David Harshbarger, hold a statue of St. Francis of Assisi on the property damaged by the fire at Juniper Hills.Sharon McNari / LAist

On the burning property of Harshbarger, some of the usual Joshua trees on the side of the mountain were burnt and some of Addis Ababa began to show.

In collaboration with the FEMA, state and local authorities are preparing to clean up the burnt lot, which is another community benefit that could come from a federal disaster.

The site of Harshbarger’s demolished house has now been cleared, and he has chosen a site for a sandstone to be used to mark his wife’s ashes.

“We’ll put Gladys here,” Harshbarger pointed to a stone-bound plot that contained the remains of his father and many beloved family pets.

Harshbargerger said he believes his wife’s cancer death in June and the stress of losing her home accelerated her husband’s death.

Looking ahead, Harshargerger said the insurance would not be sufficient to complete the construction of the replacement house and that he would not be eligible for FEMA funding. Therefore, it is important to take a low interest rate loan from a small business administration.