When Hurricane Ida damaged our house, we lost everything. I live in the Lost Valley in Manville with my wife Elizabeth, our three kids, and our two dogs. I’m a blue collar worker, and I worked hard to establish good credit for my family, and put everything into our home, which my wife bought in 2017. We had a new baby, and were even planning to get married in September. But two weeks before the wedding, Ida hit.
All of us were trapped on the second floor of the house when the water started to rise. We were busy trying to make sure the kids and animals were safe. By the time we realized Elizabeth’s wedding dress was downstairs, it was too late. The dress was ruined, along with everything we didn’t have time to move from the first floor.
After we lost our house to the storm, we were forced to rent an apartment. Because it was so hard to find a rental, especially with the dogs and the kids, it was way out of our budget. We had to figure out how to come up with the money to pay our security deposit plus pay almost double our mortgage in rent. We’re a young married couple, a young father and mother, and we just can’t afford to do this.
So we applied to FEMA asking for help, but we didn’t get a single dollar. We were denied for everything–all three times that we applied. They said it was because we already had home insurance, but that didn’t cover our rental, our personal contents, furniture, dishes, clothes.
We had to start all over again. Think about paying out of pocket for three bedroom sets, a living room set, a kitchen set, and replacing all of our own appliances–refrigerator, microwave, stove, table and chairs to eat at. Stuff you need to get by. Right now our furniture is all hand-me-downs and broken. From the amount of our own money we’ve needed to pay to make our home livable again for ourselves and our children, we’re on our last leg.
I’m at the point where I’m trying to borrow the little money I have in my retirement fund. Our credit cards are all maxed out and we’re barely making the interest payments on time. Plus we’re still making payments on both the house and on the apartment. They wouldn’t let us out of the lease for our rental even after we moved out, so now it’s almost in collections. We can’t get out of this hole, and we can’t get ahead.
I’m working 50 hours per week, 6 days per week if not more, and it’s still not enough to cover it all. It’s difficult for me to even get to work since we lost one of their cars during Ida and can’t afford to buy another. One of my daughters lost a pet who was unable to survive the stress of the storm and moving back and forth between so many places, and another is in counseling from the trauma of all of this. Our quality of life has gone down.
We thought the state would have our back by now going on to year 2 after the storm. But we’ve had to do everything by ourselves with just the money we received from our flood insurance. We’ve applied for aid countless times, but the only organization that gave us any help was the Red Cross. They gave us $500, which we were grateful for, but it barely put shoes on all of our feet. We went to FEMA centers, spent hours and days on the phone with FEMA, but got nowhere, no help–denied, denied, denied.
We don’t know what we’re going to do with the house–if they’re going to give us a grant to raise it, or give us a fair buyout. But for the state to not do anything at this point, it’s just unbelievable. We pay our taxes every year. We didn’t ask for this disaster to happen. We can’t even make a plan or a budget to save money because we’re so far behind that we’re just paying it as it comes and borrowing more to pay it all. How long has it been since Ida, 14 months? And we can’t get an answer from anybody. We just don’t know what to do.