West residents urged to apply for FEMA relief

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 8 at 1:05 AM

WEST, Texas — Left in shambles after the explosion at the West Fertilizer plant, signs of rebuilding are everywhere... but it's a daunting task.

Dozens of homes were under-insured, and families need help.

Now.

"Sometimes, I feel like we haven't grasped the fact that we have to rebuild," said Deseri Williams. "It's so surreal trying to figure out the steps, what order does it go, and how do you do these things?"

Williams and her family have moved back to the apartment they rented in the disaster zone. Plywood still covers some of their windows.

They submitted their paperwork to the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — but say the process is overwhelming.

"You get your application and wait... wait for someone to come... and wait for things to happen," Williams said.

They are like so many others who are struggling with where to begin.

City of West leaders will be creating a long-term recovery committee to help the victims in the next two weeks. The team is learning from other disasters, including Bastrop, where wildfires destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

"We are taking those ideas and formulating our plan," Mayor Tommy Muska said.

Among the lessons learned:

Victims — especially homeowners — can disqualify themselves from federal aid if they cash their insurance checks too quickly.

Also, monetary donations are usually the last to be distributed. It might take months.

"We have to come up with a formula that can be devised like a scholarship-type grant for people," the mayor said. "Somebody night need more money than others."

But the waiting proved to be too much for the Williams family. They are starting over in West, but in a new home later this month.

"From the word 'go,' we reacted and talked tactically to get things through," Williams said. "Once you are through it, it's all said and done, it's like, 'Okay, what do we do now?'"

City leaders urge all residents of West who have been in any way affected by the fertilizer plant blast to register with FEMA for relief money. Residents with questions can call a hotline set up at 254-826-7550 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for additional information.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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