Some New Mexico wildfire victims denied FEMA aid

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LAS VEGAS, N.M. — A few weeks ago, President Joe Biden said the federal government will foot the bill for 100% of the cost of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire that started as prescribed burns.

A spokesperson with FEMA says as of Friday, 29% of New Mexico residents who applied for assistance are ineligible. KOB 4 has still has not received exact numbers.

However, according to a report by Source New Mexico earlier this month, about 30% of those who have applied were denied, including a family whose home was destroyed. At the time, FEMA said 982 applicants were approved, with 740 denied but eligible to appeal. Another 687 were denied for having insurance or an inspector finding no damage.

There is currently a pool of $3.7 million for everyone impacted by the wildfires New Mexico has experienced this year. That money is meant to go toward home repair, rental assistance and reimbursement and will be distributed based on each applicant’s needs. The total amount is also increasing on a daily basis as New Mexicans continue to apply for the Individual Assistance program.

As of Thursday, FEMA now reports more than 1,000 applicants have been approved to receive a chunk of that money – which comes out to about $3,500 each. They said they did not have a number for denials.

Dasha Castillo, a FEMA spokeswoman, said there are a few reasons for denials, but the biggest reason is applicants not submitting all the documentation needed.

“We have teams from the individual assistance program that have been making 250 calls a day to contact the applicants for additional documentation that may be needed,” Castillo said.

Now, applicants do have 60 days after getting denied to appeal.

“It’s very important to follow up with FEMA, speak to a case worker, clarify all the doubts you may have,” Castillo said. “Go over the address, that’s a very big factor. Sometimes the addresses do not match in the system or with the public records and that could throw off the entire application.”

Now, the governor and federal lawmakers have been speaking out about those denials. The governor’s office told KOB 4 they have contacted FEMA about some of the applications to nail down the reasons why they were denied.

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire has been burning for 12 weeks. This week, the federal government extended its deadline to Aug. 4 to apply for federal disaster benefits.

Source New Mexico: 30% of New Mexicans seeking FEMA help got denial letters, but they can still get aid