Kentucky flooding death toll rises; FEMA faces criticism for aid response

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 12:57 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/WYMT/Gray News) - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that the eastern Kentucky flooding death toll is officially 39.

He said an additional death is being counted in Breathitt County. No details about the person’s identity was given.

“I ask the commonwealth to join me in praying for our fellow Kentuckians during this difficult time,” said the governor in a tweet.

As recovery efforts continue, state leaders are calling out the Federal Emergency Management Agency after they said a “steady stream of reports” from eastern Kentuckians indicate they are being denied federal aid.

Beshear said the aid that is being given is not enough, and too many people are being denied.

“I am not satisfied with the way FEMA claims are coming back right now. We are going to continue to push to be treated better by that organization,” Beshear said.

Beshear said while the state is grateful for the quick response and approving individual assistance in record time, the numbers are not adding up.

“Too many people are being denied, not enough people are being approved, and this is the time that FEMA has to get it right, to change what has been a history of denying too many people, and not providing enough dollars, and to get it right here,” Beshear said.

Beshear said FEMA has paid out $19.4 million to 2,700 families. That math would divide up to just under $7,200 per family. He said he has requested numbers from FEMA about cases that were denied and why.

FEMA Press Secretary Jeremy Edwards says the agency is working to “reduce barriers and cut red tape.” He said FEMA personnel will stay as long as it takes to help Kentuckians recover.

The FEMA recovery center at the Breathitt County library has been busy with people coming in to get aid, but one man said he’s not so sure how much help his family will get, after hearing about friends getting less than $200.

The devastation goes on for miles across eastern Kentucky, homes washed away, and families have lost everything.

“It’s devastating. I’ve lived here 20 years of my life, and all I can tell you is I wish everything could go back to normal,” flood victim Parker Miller said.

For Miller and hundreds of other families, getting back to normal is going to be a daunting task.

“The process is relatively slow. We’ve turned to FEMA, the Red Cross. We’ve talked to Samaritan’s Purse. We’re just looking for help cleaning up and maybe financial aid because we’ve lost everything,” Miller said.

Miller and his family have applied for FEMA help and met with representatives Thursday. However, he’s not sure how much help they’ll get after hearing from a friend.

“Four feet of water. FEMA came and looked at it, and they only offered $176. I figure if money is not coming in, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Miller said.

Miller said he hopes the pressure leads to action. He’s worried what could happen to his community without help.

“I feel like without financial aid, our community will fall apart,” Miller said.

Copyright 2022 WKYT and WYMT via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.