A Dehumanizing Gotcha From the Federal Government

Even though I doubted the government would ever feel sympathy for me and my losses from Hurricane Sandy, I appealed through one of my senators yet again.

Yet again, I was right.

Dalai Lama Love and Compassion

I was technically in the wrong. Or, at least, I was given the wrong advice by my insurance broker following Hurricane Irene. I received $1359.98 for home repair and $109.99 for a dehumidifier after Irene. I was told I needed flood insurance, and I did try to get a quote. But my broker said the insurance couldn’t be in my name until the property was in my name. My aunt passed away, and the house went into probate. So I was waiting for the deed. That’s when Sandy hit.

There was no malice on my part. No conniving. Just someone innocently trying to do the best she could. Over the years since Sandy FEMA told me many things, including the “fact” that once property has had aid, it can “never” have it again. Ever. That made no sense, and apparently they’ve changed their tune and now deny me because I said I was getting flood insurance but didn’t. Well, according to my insurance broker I couldn’t. 

FEMA also now mentions that I applied under first the name “Bayrack” and then the name “Castrovilla.” How nefarious of me. The truth is, I answer to both names. Barack was my maiden name, and somehow my social security number still lists it. When Sandy hit I used Castrovilla – which I often do by accident, because that is the name I go by. I gave my correct social security number. They knew who I was! (And this was not mentioned in all of my appeals until now, when they apparently are running out of excuses not to help me.)

My concern, past my monetary losses, is that the government is playing “gotcha” on a technicality with a citizen who legitimately needs aid. My damages were over $125,000. The money was allocated to help people. Why would they not want to? Isn’t the government supposed to help it’s citizens, instead of saying: “Aha! Gotcha!”

Where is the compassion? We give so much foreign aid. We help disaster victims worldwide. I was struck by one hurricane, then endured the loss of my mother and my aunt and then another hurricane – this one destroying not only my property but my entire community – in just over a year. Why wouldn’t the federal government want to help me?

What I really asked is for New York Rising to drop the requirement that recipients be FEMA- compliant. People deemed “non-compliant” need aid more than anyone. If we didn’t have flood insurance, do we deserve to be condemned? Again, where is the compassion?

I applied for NY Rising early on, and explained my problem with FEMA. I was assured by my case worker that this was a different program, designed to help people like me who “fell between the cracks.” I even received an award letter! But the letters were declared “wrong” and I was told to wait again. And then, I was told that because I was FEMA non-comliant I could not have NY Rising. Apparently someone had changed the rules.

Why wouldn’t there be an amnesty for the people who made mistakes? Criminals are pardoned, even having committed felonies. I didn’t set out to deceive anyone. I had no idea what I was doing, and frankly I still don’t. Because the rules keep changing.

I know many people who received more NY Rising money than they needed, because there were ways to manipulate it. As long as they were FEMA compliant, the world was their oyster. How can so much hinge on one mistake?

I was also not allowed to apply for the $10,000 grant for NY State residents because of my FEMA non-compliance. But I pay taxes in NY state! Why should FEMA have

This is an excerpt from Senator Gilibrand's response. Of course, the letter didn't have an actual inked signature, and I doubt she ever looked into the matter at all. Why would my US senator want to waste her time on such an insignificant matter?

This is an excerpt from Senator Gilibrand’s response. Of course, the letter didn’t have an actual inked signature, and I doubt she ever looked into the matter at all. Why would my US senator want to waste her time on such an insignificant matter?

anything to do with that grant? There was no way to appeal this, no one to talk to. When I called Governor Cuomo’s office they said that the rule was to be FEMA compliant, and that was that.

I write this because I am appalled by the lack of humanity and mercy displayed by the federal and the NY state government.  To have been treated this way after such tremendous loss was the epitome of insult to injury. Gone is the golden rule, gone are the teachings of all religions. 

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Let us hope there will yet be redemption.






Comment (1)

  1. Joyce Moyer Hostetter

    Oh my -Selene, this is sooooo hard. This is so well stated. I can totally see you sitting before Congress and making your case!

    I will pray for redemption.


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