NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) – Pam Johnson’s North Port home suffered significant damage during Hurricane Ian. Panels and parts of the roof were ripped away in the wind, leaving a costly mess for her and her husband.
Johnson applied for FEMA assistance as soon as she was able to and received a letter dated Oct. 3, stating she had been approved for $700 in Critical Needs Assistance, which can cover expenses for items such as food, water, hygiene products, and prescriptions among other things.
“I have not asked for assistance too much, but we really needed it this time. We needed it just to get by,” said the homeowner.
Johnson waiting weeks, checking her bank account and her mail for the funds. This week, she got in touch with FEMA only to learn the money they had promised her would not be coming through.
“They told me that they had sent hundreds of these letters out by mistake. So there’s a lot of other people that will get these letters expecting checks that aren’t going to get them,” said Johnson. “I want people to know that they may not be getting what they were promised.”
8 On Your Side asked for an explanation on Tuesday. We were told the agency recently discovered several improper payments were processed and by law, FEMA is required to seek recovery of those funds. In all 441 applicants were impacted, however, 271 of them were made eligible at a later date.
“We are committed to addressing the needs of survivors, especially those with added economic burden, and are contacting each person who received an improper payment to determine the best course of action for their unique situation,” said a FEMA spokesperson in an email to 8 On Your Side.
“It is bad enough that you were going through something like this, but to be promised by the federal government that you were going to get some kind of assistance, even though it was little. Just a little thing means a lot when you are going through a disaster,” said Johnson. “You don’t bank on certain things, like you bank on a paycheck because you have worked for it. This is FEMA – approval -you bank on it, it is a federal assistance program,” she continued.