'People need help': Some West Side residents struggling to get FEMA flood assistance grants

FEMA denied Shirley Howard's application while Pastor Cy Fields says his grant wasn't enough

Leah Hope Image
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Some Chicagoans struggling to get FEMA flood assistance funds
One North Austin resident was denied FEMA disaster assistance after flooding in Chicago. Another Chicagoan said his FEMA grant wasn't enough.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Relatives came to help a longtime Austin resident on Tuesday.

Shirley Howard explained what she lost after four feet of water receded from the July 2 flood.

"Everything. I had to strip the basement," Howard said.

Howard is president of her block club and is a member of the Leaders Network, which had its monthly meeting on Tuesday at the Columbus Park Refectory. Among the topics was how to get help for flood victims from the federal government.

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"We felt a sense of urgency to address these issues," said Leaders Network President David Cherry. "People need help. People desperately need help. The West Side has been suffering for a period of 72 days."

Past Leaders Network President Pastor Cy Fields was among those who got a grant from FEMA, but he said it has not been enough.

"The damage was so vast that they just come near the loss we suffered. So, of course, that's frustrating," Fields said.

FEMA brought representatives to the meeting. They spoke with attendees, but were not permitted to do interviews with ABC7.

Howard said her application was rejected, but all of the FEMA letters were in Spanish, which she does not speak. She said she plans to appeal.

"I am hoping FEMA reassess their policies and, come on and help these people," Howard said.

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FEMA recommends anyone with a rejected application to appeal.

Nonetheless, concern remains about ability for flood victims to navigate this process. Even if navigated successfully, the losses still may outweigh the help.