Confusion over FEMA aid for Georgetown Common Apartments to be resolved

By WEEK Reporter

January 2, 2014 Updated Jan 3, 2014 at 11:12 AM CDT

WASHINGTON, Ill. -- It has been a ball of confusion in Washington since Governor Quinn's news conference there on Tuesday.

Tenants at the tornado-ravaged Georgetown Common Apartments have voiced outrage over trouble with receiving and accessing FEMA aid.

They said FEMA told them its inspectors do not have access to the apartments. Since Tuesday the city of Washington, FEMA and Georgetown Common property owners have been working to remedy the situation.

In order for residents to get the most from FEMA aid, FEMA said survivors need to register and FEMA's inspectors need to have access to the apartments.

"The residents were told by FEMA that they were waiting on something from the city," said Washington Mayor Gary Manier.

That was a letter. The mayor said FEMA initially asked Washington to provide a list of the property's structural conditions with the expertise of a structural engineer. This was a request that the city said was a problem.

"That's private property and for us to condemn the property and for us to go in and say 'that property is condemned' that's something we could not do," said Mayor Manier.

However, without that letter, FEMA's inspectors are not able to do their job.

"We want to make sure that the damage is appropriately documented so that we can provide adequate assistance," said FEMA Representative Deanna Frazier.

Generally, the FEMA inspection is a necessary step to completing FEMA registration for aid. Without the inspection, the registration process stays at a stand-still, jeopardizing precious dollars for tornado survivors.

"Registration provides for several opportunities including grant money to repair and build your home as well as well as money for personal property," Frazier said.

"I can understand their frustration," Manier said. "The difference between whether it was supposed to be a letter from us or from the property owners is where the confusion came in."

Initially, the property owners also questioned that responsibility. Now the owners are coming forward and are working with FEMA to find a solution. All parties have agreed that the city of Washington is not needed to take any further action at this point.

"From what I was told Tuesday from a number of conversations I had including those from FEMA, that a letter from the property owner should be sufficient, but we have yet to hear about that today," Manier said.

The property owner indicated that they had previously hired a structural engineer, and are now giving that information to FEMA. Thursday, they told News 25 that they had given FEMA everything its representatives had asked for and were waiting on FEMA's response.

Mayor Manier said that while the city is no longer directly involved with the discussion, he is happy to advocate for those who are experiencing difficulty with FEMA registration regarding this situation.

Mayor Manier urges those people to contact him by email at gwmanier@comcast.net.