BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – Displaced survivors of the tornado are still looking for temporary homes and struggling.

Housing was already a problem in Bowling Green and Warren County due to rapid growth in recent years, and the tornadoes destroyed 500 homes and apartments and damaged 500 others. It will take months, if not years, to rebuild.

“With COVID and then tornadoes, I mean the market it is – it’s incredibly scarce when it comes to finding rental properties,” said Megan Walden, Select Property Management Leasing Manager.

Six weeks later, tornado survivors are still being held in hotels, with friends and family, some out of state.

“I really need to go somewhere and I need to go somewhere soon because I need my life back,” said Lauren Douglas, the Bowling Green home was destroyed by December tornadoes.

Lauren Douglas’ home was destroyed in the tornadoes. She even struggled to find landlords to approve her rental application.

“You know, the housing I had, I had well over six months of housing, stable housing and that doesn’t count. Although it’s not my fault that I don’t have it anymore. I didn’t cause the tornado,” Douglas said.

Douglas received $1,300 from FEMA for housing. The Red Cross got her into a hotel, but what’s next for her and her daughter?

She not only says she can’t find a unit in her price range, but she can barely find an available unit at all.

“It’s a little worrying, you know, the government that’s there to help you doesn’t reach out to people that they know have been affected and that’s not me, but they now, ‘Okay this company has seven hundred tenants, we know they had a lot in that area. I mean, we had buildings completely razed. Fortunately, we had no fatalities during the tornado, but that being said, who is helping these people? I don’t know,” Walden said.

Local officials estimate that 4,000 or more residents of Bowling Green have been displaced.

Select Property Management in Bowling Green manages over 700 homes, and of those, only 11 single-family homes and apartments remain.

In addition to the shortage, many who applied to FEMA were turned down.

Due to rising rental prices, FEMA says it will provide 125% of rental rates to get people back into rental properties. For example, if your rent is $800 per month, you will receive $1,000, but only if you are approved by FEMA.

Kentucky residents who applied for FEMA disaster assistance must have been affected by the severe storms and tornadoes of December 10 and 11 and live in one of these 16 counties: Barren, Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor or Warren. Here are some common reasons why you may not qualify for FEMA programs:

  • FEMA assistance would duplicate benefits from other sources. FEMA cannot provide financial assistance when another source, such as insurance, has provided assistance for the same disaster-related need or when such assistance is available from another source. For example, FEMA cannot pay for home repairs if the homeowner is already receiving funds from their insurance company for the same repairs. If you have already received funds from another source for your disaster recovery, FEMA may find you ineligible.
  • FEMA also does not provide replacement value amounts for damaged items or assistance for non-essential items. FEMA provides assistance only for repairs to make a home safe, hygienic, and functional. FEMA assistance is not a substitute for insurance.
  • There is more than one application filed for your household. Only one application per household is considered.
  • FEMA has not been able to verify that you are the owner. FEMA requires proof of ownership from disaster survivors who apply for federal assistance to help repair their damaged homes. FEMA verifies ownership through automated public and government records or by using documents you submit. FEMA may also verify the property at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documentation proving ownership with your signed appeal letter. Documents you can use to verify ownership:
  • Deed or title
  • Mortgage deed
  • Home insurance documentation
  • Property tax receipt or tax bill
  • Manufactured house certificate or title
  • Home purchase contracts (e.g. bill of sale)
  • Last will and testament (and death certificate) naming you heir to the property
  • FEMA was unable to verify your occupation. FEMA verifies occupancy through automated public and government records or by using documents submitted with your application. FEMA may also verify occupancy at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documentation proving occupancy along with your signed appeal letter.
  • FEMA was unable to verify your identity. FEMA must be able to verify your identity. By verifying identity, FEMA prevents fraud and ensures that you receive eligible disaster assistance. FEMA verifies identity through automated public and government records or by using documents submitted with your application. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documentation proving your identity along with your signed appeal letter.
  • The damaged house may not be your primary residence. FEMA will provide disaster assistance to eligible principal residence applicants. FEMA will not consider more than one primary residence for a survivor and spouse. FEMA defines your primary residence as where you live more than six months of the year.
  • You have not submitted the required documents or information. Read your FEMA mail carefully. Respond quickly with the information FEMA is looking for. If this information is not available, explain why to FEMA.
  • Insufficient Damage: Your dwelling is safe to occupy. There was not enough storm damage to your house, or the damage to your house does not affect whether you can live in the house. Damage to non-essential areas, landscaping, or spoiled food is generally not covered by FEMA assistance.
  • You have not reported any damage to your home. If you applied for Federal Disaster Assistance but reported that you suffered no disaster damage to your home, FEMA will find you ineligible for assistance.
  • You don’t want to move during repairs. If the FEMA inspector finds your home uninhabitable due to disaster damage, you may be eligible for FEMA Initial Rental Assistance. If you stated at the time of the inspection that you are unwilling to move out while your damaged home is being repaired, you will not be eligible for FEMA Temporary Rental Assistance. If your housing needs have changed, contact FEMA promptly to update your housing and explain why you need rental assistance.
  • Tenants: If you live in an apartment and the landlord asks you to leave so that repairs can be made to the apartment or building, you must update your status with FEMA. You can get help.
  • A FEMA inspector was unable to reach you at the contact information you provided. You must return FEMA phone calls and requests for information in a timely manner. If FEMA cannot contact you, or if you do not provide the requested information, FEMA may find you ineligible.
  • You haven’t met the inspector. It is important that you read all correspondence from FEMA carefully. You or a representative you designate to FEMA in advance must attend all appointments with FEMA officials or FEMA may refuse your application. If you still need an inspection, call FEMA Hotline at 800-621-3362 and request an inspection.
  • If you disagree with a FEMA decision, you have the right to appeal. Submit your signed letter of appeal in writing.
  • Click here to learn more about How to appeal FEMA’s decision: https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20220118/how-appeal-femas-decision.
  • The deadline to apply for FEMA Disaster Assistance is Friday February 11.
  • For official information on Kentucky’s tornado recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4630. Follow FEMA on Twitter at FEMA Region 4 (@femaregion4) / Twitter and on facebook.com/fema.

To learn more about FEMA’s appeal process, click here.

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