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Good news comes for eastern Kentucky family initially denied FEMA aid for destroyed home

Gov. Beshear said new FEMA mobile disaster recovery centers opened Sunday to help flood survivors.
Credit: WLEX

BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. — Katie Turner and her husband closed on their first home just days before the floods that devastated eastern Kentucky. Before they ever had the chance to move in, the waters gutted the home that they’d saved so long to buy.

That was hard enough. Then they learned that because they hadn’t lived in the home yet and didn’t have proof of occupancy, FEMA denied their application for aid, Turner said.

LEX 18 Investigates told her story, and then kept asking questions. One of those questions was to Gov. Andy Beshear during his Tuesday press conference.

Beshear talked about his own concerns with the FEMA denial process. He also said he’d heard about the Turners’ situation, calling it “just awful.”

And Katie Turner was watching.

“I actually messaged my family and I said, guarantee you somebody from FEMA will call me,” Turner said.

She was right. About two hours after the press conference, she got a call from FEMA saying they were taking another look at her case.

On Friday, she got more good news.

“Today I got notified that we are, in fact, eligible for assistance,” Turner said.

Turner is grateful that the agency saw the extraordinary circumstances.

“I'm thankful they changed their mind,” Turner said.

Turner said she thinks that the change is likely because of the attention her story got.

“I think there are still a lot of people out here who need assistance and who aren't getting it, and might not get it because attention isn't brought to their story,” Turner said.

Beshear has also voiced frustration over people’s struggles to get FEMA help. He specifically called into question the agency’s practice of denying applications because of missing documents instead of marking them incomplete.

"They need to rethink how that process looks and works,” Beshear said during a press conference Thursday. “But I would say to everybody, appeal, appeal and appeal."

For Turner, the appeal ended in eligibility for aid. But for people in eastern Kentucky who’ve lost everything, it can be an exhausting process.

“It's a shame that people have to fight so hard for this,” Turner said.

Turner said that the money her family is getting from FEMA won’t cover everything, but a GoFundMe that’s raised nearly $6,000 will help with other parts of her family’s recovery.

And she’s seen kindness from other places, too. Including a man in Ohio who saw Turner’s story on LEX 18 and reached out to donate a bathtub.

“There's a lot of bad and it's so easy to get focused on that,” Turner said. “But there's so much good going on, people reaching out and wanting to help. That's how we're going to make it.”

Gov. Beshear said new FEMA mobile disaster recovery centers opened Sunday to help flood survivors. People can also request assistance online at disasterassistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362 or by using the FEMA mobile app.

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