Iowans living in mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will need to move out in less than two months. Some of those flood victims are wondering why the agency is treating disaster victims in this state differently than those in Mississippi and Louisiana.
A few months ago, FEMA offered to sell the trailers to about 300 Iowa families who were living in them for an average of $14,000. Victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, meanwhile, only had to pay one dollar to purchase their trailers. Daphene Bilek and her two boys are living in a small FEMA trailer in Cedar Rapids. She says what FEMA is doing is unfair.
“Some people aren’t going to buy any of these…$12,000, $17,000…I mean those are big numbers for people who were either renting to begin with or, you know, that’s a lot of money,” Bilek said. “So, I feel like they’re really in a big hurry just to grab these trailers and get them out of here for some reason.”
Bilek is one of four people in the state who’s in the process of buying a trailer. Her mobile home is smaller than most, so it’s being sold for about five thousand dollars. She says coming up with that amount of money all at once will still be a struggle because that’s about half of what she makes in a year.
Cedar Rapids councilman Chuck Wieneke says as long as there are disaster victims who need housing, the government should treat them the same. FEMA director Craig Fugate was in Cedar Rapids last week but he did not indicate the one dollar sale would be extended to Iowa. Wieneke says he’s hopeful things could change.
“I really did believe that he would try to do all he could to waive certain rules that are waiveable, to bring up changes in the law that need to be made in order to help people after a disaster such as this,” Wieneke said. About 150 Iowa families still live in FEMA trailers and some of them don’t know where they’ll. be going when the mobile home program ends.
Representatives from FEMA say they continue to work with Governor Culvert to give Iowans the help they need to recover. They did not answer why the agency is treating disaster victims in Iowa differently than those in Mississippi and Louisiana.