More than three months after Hurricane Harvey walloped Texas, many affected residents say they’re still not getting help they need and President Donald Trump is getting low marks for his handling of the disaster, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation survey released on Dec. 5.
The poll is another indication of how families along the Texas coast continue struggling in wake of the Category 4 storm, which left Houston underwater and killed more than 80 people.
Nearly half of residents who said they had property damage or lost their job or work hours because of Harvey say they’re not getting the resources needed to get back on their feet. Federal officials have approved $1.4 billion in Harvey assistance to individuals and households but the survey showed signs of confusion and frustration: More than 6 in 10 denied applicants say they received no information on how to try again.
Trump, who has consistently low approval ratings nationally, also received worse numbers than Congress or Texas leaders for their response to Harvey, with half saying the president was doing a fair or poor job.
Fears over immigration enforcement may also have a chilling effect on asking for help: Of those surveyed who were likely to be in the U.S. illegally, a majority were either very or somewhat worried about drawing attention to their status if they reached out for help.
“It’s a really mixed picture for a lot of people. We do see people saying their lives are back to normal,” said Liz Hamel, the director of public opinion and survey research for Kaiser. But she added, “The people who are having more trouble recovering are the ones who started out in a more tenuous position.”
African-American residents and those living well below the federal poverty level were most likely to say they needed more help. Applying for disaster assistance and repairing damaged homes were the biggest concerns to those needing help, followed by finding affordable housing and getting medical care.
About 4 in 10 were also not confident about Harvey relief dollars trickling down to those who need it most.
More than 892,000 have applied for aid with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Harvey slamming the Texas coast on Aug. 25. About one-third of those applicants were deemed ineligible, and FEMA spokesman Robert Howard said every person who is denied aid receives a letter stating the reason and information on the appeals process.
The White House last month sent Congress a $44 billion disaster aid package that was criticized by lawmakers as being too small. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called it “wholly inadequate” while White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Texas should “step up” and provide more state money to rebuilding efforts.
The survey of 1,635 adults was conducted by phone Oct. 17-Nov. 20 using a random sample of residents that suffered large amounts of property damage from Harvey, according to FEMA reports. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.
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