Family displaced by Kalama landslide says federal aid not enough - KPTV - FOX 12

Family displaced by Kalama landslide says federal aid not enough to fix home

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KALAMA, WA (KPTV) -

Months after a landslide forced a family of four to leave their dream home in the hills of Kalama, the fate of their house still hangs in the balance.

They told Fox 12 the federal aid they were expecting fell short of fixing their problems.

The ground gave way a matter of feet from the Days' family home back in December and oozed down the hillside. It's stayed like that for months because the family thought they'd get funding from the government to stabilize the property after it was declared a disaster zone.

The family says they're renting a house from a friend in Vancouver in the meantime, while they wait in limbo wondering what's to come of their home in the hills.

"We have no idea what's going on with our house situation yet, whether we'll be able to buy new house in the future, or if we'll be tied up in foreclosure for years to come," said Alison Day.

The family never purchased disaster insurance, which means it's nearly impossible for them to restore their home out of pocket.

They thought they'd caught a break when the area was declared a disaster zone last year and the Obama administration approved public assistance for 10 Washington counties hit by the December storms.

Cowlitz County was one of them.

"I called the county said, 'hi is anything set up yet, we're one of the people who lost their homes in a land slide crisis,'" said Day. "And they said, 'oh yes, there's going to be an office set up in the town hall.'"

When the Days finally met with someone weeks later, they found out that the aid they were counting on was instead a small business loan, which they'd have to pay back with interest. 

"The amount of loan that they offered us wasn't enough to repair home, at the time it would have just covered our moving expenses, but we already shouldered that cost," said Day. 

The Washington State Emergency Management division told Fox 12 people often think the government will bail them out of a situation like this, but that doesn't always happen. They say while the state will often ask FEMA to help individual home owners with cash assistance following a disaster declaration, it's up to FEMA to decide whether to grant it. 

Often times, FEMA typically only approves funds to cover public infrastructure. The feds will more often give homeowners the option of low-interest loans, according to the state.

"It was just a major disappointment," said Day. "We've been government employees and tax payers for our entire adult lives and to have a crisis like this happen and then hear about government aid, you think you're going to be getting something back for what you put in. It's your turn to have the government help you out, but it turns out they just want to offer us a loan. We could have just gone to a bank if we wanted to do that."

It's a difficult pill for the Days to swallow, as the family figures out where to go from here.

"Despite expecting aid from the government the most aid we received was from community members," said Day. "Our friends and family were integral to surviving this and come out in a comfortable place."

The Department of Emergency management also stresses that the best way to protect your property is to have disaster insurance specific to your home, based on its surroundings. That way most of your investment is covered in the event of an emergency.

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