Laura evacuees protest, cite slow aid response from FEMA


September 11, 2020

By CHEVEL JOHNSON (AP) — About two dozen Hurricane Laura evacuees and their advocates marched through the streets of New Orleans on Thursday to protest what they called the “slow response” from the federal government on getting them needed financial assistance.

Evacuees from Lake Charles, DeRidder, Vinton and other cities hit hard when Laura raked the state last month marched holding signs that read “FEMA — The people of Lake Charles need assistance now” and “FEMA — Lake Charles children need school today.” The march ended outside the federal building in New Orleans, where they chanted “What do we want?” “Justice,” “When do we want it?” “Now.”

Hurricane Laura evacuee Kiyanna Jewitt, left, receives diapers as volunteer Dawn Reidler waves to 18 month-old Kiyanna at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center which is serving as an aid distribution center set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management in New Orleans, La. Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Max Becherer/The Advocate via AP)

Estevan Hernandez, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and one of the march’s organizers, said Lake Charles and its surroundings has suffered an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion in damage from Laura but FEMA has only released $29 million.

“The government needs to give more,” he said. “When will these people get some answers and real relief? People have been abandoned in Lake Charles and that’s why we’re out here today.”

FEMA issued a statement Thursday that the agency is “fully engaged, and our top priorities continue to be survivor needs and power and water restoration. We are working with our local, state, and federal partners to facilitate these actions in an effective manner.”″

The statement added that FEMA has so far registered more than 131,000 Louisiana survivors and put more than $73 million in the hands of residents, including nearly $47 million for housing assistance and more than $26 million for other assistance.

Jennifer Fisher, 44, of Lake Charles, said the roof was ripped off the home she shares with her mother and the shed that was behind the house now sits in the front yard.

“FEMA is just not acting quickly enough,” she said. “There’s so much red tape.”

Evacuees from Hurricane Laura Bentley White, 9, center, tries on shoes with Chris Cormier, 10, left, and Angela Cormier while visiting an aid center at the Ernest N. Morial Convention set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management in New Orleans, La. Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Max Becherer/The Advocate via AP)

Fisher said she’s been seeking financial assistance from FEMA for weeks, Now, she said they’re asking her for a copy of her identification, which she doesn’t have.

“Until I can get a copy of the ID, which costs $31, they can’t help me. I told them I don’t have any money for an ID. So what am I supposed to do?” she said. “I’m at a standstill. I’m stuck. I guess I’ve just got to keep the faith and keep God first and know that he’s going to work this out.”

Tyla Simms, 30, also from Lake Charles, said her trailer home was flipped over during the storm and there’s no time frame on when she and her four children will be able to return.

“We’re just waiting. The bottom line is we need help,” she said. “People think because we didn’t have the flood that we’re OK. But that’s not the case. Go walk through there and see. Poles down everywhere, buildings smashed to rubble. It’s just awful.”

Both Fisher and Simms thanked the city of New Orleans for its kindness during the storm’s aftermath.

“It’s not the city. The city’s been great. It’s the federal government,” Simms said.

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Photo: Bradley Beard walks with a shovel through his daughter's destroyed trailer home, after searching in vain for the water shutoff valve for the property in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020 in Hackberry, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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