Families look for help after FEMA denies claims

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 01/15 2014 06:17PM

Updated 01/20 2014 01:01PM

Update: 10:05 pm, 1/18/14, Saturday
GIFFORD -- Another woman received help from FEMA. Earlier in the week, we heard Tina Cornwell was under-insured and didn't get any money from FEMA.

Since her story aired, FEMA reviewed her application and she was given money. It's something she could use to rebuild her home. She encourages others to call the hotline and get an explanation as to why they were denied.
Original: 6:17 pm, 1/15/14, Wednesday
GIFFORD -- After the tornado hit town, families turned to FEMA for help. Many were turned down. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine spoke to one woman who did get help, but she isn't as excited as you might expect. In fact, she feels guilty.

Amanda Petkus had no insurance on her home. She says it made filing her claim to FEMA a little easier. Although she's grateful for the money, she's still upset because her neighbors weren't as lucky.

For the 1,000 people living here, their lives changed on November 17.

"I didn't realize what it was until I came upstairs and looked outside."

A tornado damaged over 200 homes including Petkus'.

"I had no insurance."

With thousands of dollars in property damage, she turned to FEMA. Within days, she got money to start rebuilding.

"It was amazing. It was a very big relief. I actually kind of did a dance and cried."

They were tears of joy, but that soon turned to frustration.

"I think my case was unique, but I know a lot of other people that weren't able to get the help they deserve."

Tina Cornwell is one of them.

"We were under-insured. We didn't realize the insurance company only covered the structure of our home. It doesn't cover and of the damage on the inside."

The total cost of damages to her home is about $45,000. The insurance company is only covering about half of that. She too went to FEMA.

"I was hoping that we would get help to make the repairs."

But, was denied.

"When we got our insurance back and found out what they were going to cover, we appealed the decision and they still denied us."

So, we decided to call FEMA one more time. After a short conversation, FEMA took her name and number. One woman struggling to get help; another who got the help she needed.

"I feel like a lot of people are being swept under the run and it's ridiculous."

Petkus plans to use the money for siding her house, but the recent weather has slowed that down a bit. As for Cornwell, she plans to continue to look for help from other agencies.

The town is still trying to make a case for federal aide as well. The past Thursday, the state was denied federal aide, but there's an appeal process. Governor Quinn says he's exploring that option.

New numbers from FEMA show, in Champaign County, nearly 200 people registered for help. But, FEMA says it's waiting for additional paperwork from more than 100 of them; mainly information on insurance claims. So far, it's approved more than $150,000 in aid.

The Rebuild Gifford Committee is set to meet Monday, January 27, at 6:30 pm. It will be held at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. They'll discuss the latest on home repair grans, tree stump removal and planting new trees.

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