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Why FEMA Aid Is Unavailable To Many Who Need It The Most

Why FEMA Aid Is Unavailable To Many Who Need It The Most

The Speights' mobile home in DeQuincy, La., is at the end of an unpaved road in a stand of tall longleaf pines. Donnie and Stephen Speight bought the land and the house 11 years ago after Stephen retired from his job as a pipe fitter at a local petrochemical plant.

The area around their home is flat and marshy. Creeks wend their way toward the Gulf of Mexico. Egrets linger in the tall grass. The Speights liked how secluded and quiet it was.

Stephen's nickname at work was "Termite" because he was agile enough to crawl into pipes when he was younger. But his health was declining. He was a Vietnam veteran who had been exposed to Agent Orange during the war and had rapidly advancing diabetes and mobility problems.

It took everything Donnie had to care for her husband. "I got arthritis like crazy. It's in my hands, my arms, my neck, my hips, my knees," Donnie says. "I don't know how I was doing it."

That was before Hurricane Laura hit in August. The Category 4 hurricane knocked out power, destroyed the air conditioning unit and sent a tree through the bedroom ceiling. Donnie couldn't use the lift to get Stephen in and out of bed because it needed electricity. The nebulizer that helped him breathe also required power. The house was dangerously hot. The hole was right next to the hospital bed where Stephen slept, and water leaked into the bedroom every time it rained. It rains a lot in southern Louisiana.

The Speights were living on a fixed income, and they didn't have home insurance. They didn't have the money to fix the damage. So, like most disaster survivors, they turned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help.

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