Watch CBS News

Haverhill homeowners unable to get federal disaster relief after August flooding

Mass. communities damaged by flooding in August unable to get federal disaster relief
Mass. communities damaged by flooding in August unable to get federal disaster relief 02:43

HAVERHILL - Massachusetts communities damaged by flooding in August will not be able to get federal disaster relief, cutting down on options for residents and business owners who are trying to rebuild.

Haverhill homeowner Betsy Vega says the road to her home was like a lake that she had never seen before. "Refrigerators falling and furniture falling over because three and a half feet of water came into our home in a matter of minutes," said Vega.

She was able to salvage some things, but she lost so much more in appliances and furniture, damaged floors and walls and believes $30,000 is just the beginning of the damage estimate. "I've never asked anyone for anything, but to have something happen so unexpectedly," Vega said.

Haverhill flooding
Betsy Vega's home was damaged by floods CBS Boston

She was one of 172 Haverhill residents to submit damage claims to FEMA after the flooding that overwhelmed the communities, damaging infrastructure, businesses, and homes, including Mike Law's who is only beginning to recover. "It came up like a geyser and it's going to happen again," said Law.

But the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency says the state has fallen short of the requirements for federal relief writing in a letter to the communities, "The storms did not exceed the capability of both the state and local governments to respond, which is a prerequisite for a federal major disaster declaration."

Haverhill City Council President Timothy Jordan acknowledges there are infrastructure issues that contributed. "We used to hear about 70-year flooding, now it's happening every couple of years. We in Haverhill have an old, tired infrastructure system which we need to step up our investment in," said Jordan.

The decision is disappointing for Haverhill homeowner Harry Taylor who saw the water up at least 22 inches in his first floor and filled a dumpster's worth of damage. Now he says he has to dig deep as he continues to make repairs. "I'll have to take it out of retirement, not what we expected. We do one thing year and just did new windows. We didn't expect to do anything else," said Taylor.

The homeowners did not have or need flood insurance at the time. The state is now trying to find other avenues to help which includes low interest loans through the Small Business Administration if they want to apply again. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.