Railing on the Red Cross: Help for Denied Applicants

Railing on the Red Cross: Help for Denied Applicants

BEAUMONT - No home, no belongings, and no help after Harvey. The painful scenario is familiar to thousands of Southeast Texans. While Harvey is to blame for the situation, some say the American Red Cross isn't helping enough.

Not everyone is able to cash in on the organization's new program offering $400 in emergency assistance.
12News looked into the complaints.

If you take a look at social media, it's easy to find post after post criticizing the Red Cross. If you boil it all down, a lot of people feel like the organization is not being fair. The Red Cross says they can't help everyone but they are offering up more than money.

"Every single person that's come in here has been denied $400," said Eric Klein. "Just $400. I mean to some people, that doesn't sound like a lot of money but when you have people who have lost everything… you have people who are desperate right now and it's just going to get a hell of a lot worse."

Klein is volunteering in Rose City. He's mucking out homes and distributing supplies. Mention the American Red Cross and he gets fired up.

The volunteer with organization Can-Do has met homeowners at the brink of despair. When they see the word "denied" on their Red Cross assistance application, Klein says that's enough to break some people.

Ronnie Hughes knows what it feels like to read that word.

"Once I was denied, it said I did not qualify for assistance," said Hughes. "So I immediately called the 1-800-RED-CROSS number."

Hughes decided to appeal the denial. He lost his car in the floodwaters. No car means no work. He got the $400. Here is what it took for Hughes to get the cash. His first application didn't go through because the website crashed.

When Red Cross went back online, he applied again. Hughes was denied. He called 1-800-RED-CROSS and was on hold for several hours. A volunteer reviewed his application and made sure the information was entered correctly in the system. That appeal was accepted. Hughes went to Walmart and waited in line for a few more hours. He walked out with cash in hand.

"People are saying, 'oh I've called Red Cross. They're not helping, they're thieves and they're going back on their word,' and it's basically because people are not being patient," said Hughes.

12News sat down with the Red Cross to see what was going on with their program.

"The funds were provided to help with," said Red Cross spokesperson Ekland Durousseau. "It wasn't meant to hurt anyone. They were meant to help people. We are doing our best to get the funds to people in a timely manner."

Red Cross says they want to help people who were severely impacted by Harvey. Keep in mind there are some qualifications.

Only one person per household can claim the money. The applicant will have to verify their identity. That identification will need to contain the same address as the flooded home. The applicant also must be in need of emergency assistance for things like food and clothing.

More than one submission per address can cause some big delays.

"One of the things we caution people against doing is reapplying," said Durousseau. "That creates kind of a duplicate application and that can confuse the system and delay your case even longer. So we ask people not reapply twice."

The Red Cross says they have had some problems with technology. The most frustrating thing for Southeast Texans seems to be the message that they were denied. Red Cross says then pick up the phone.

If you're like Hughes and find yourself on hold, stay on the line.

"People were affected from Brownsville to Port Arthur. That's a lot of people," said Durousseau. "I mean considering that Houston is included in that group and it's the 4th largest city in the nation. That's a lot of people."

Since the storm, the Red Cross has helped hundreds of thousands of Texans suffering after Harvey. They've paid out more than $109 million dollars in cash, state-wide.

"There's people out there that need help, that lost a lot that aren't getting help. And we feel for those people," said Hughes. "But it's also too I feel as people, we have to step up and help ourselves. We can't rely on Red Cross to help us. We can't rely on FEMA to step in and rebuild our lives for us."

As for Eric Klein, he says to pay attention to people who are helping rebuild.

"Do you see anything out here that looks like any organization is been out here helping? It's Texans helping Texans right now," said Klein.

The Red Cross says apart from cash assistance, they provide shelters and meals along with resources for other needs.

© 2017 KBMT-TV


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