Hundreds of residents from Woodbridge, Virginia protested outside of Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in D.C. Friday afternoon. They lost their homes during flooding after Tropical Storm Lee, and say the process for getting government assistance is stacked against them.
With children leading the chants, the crowd of more than one hundred people, many former residents of the Holly Acres Mobile Home Park in Woodbridge, gathered outside of FEMA headquarters to protest a recent decision to reject requests for individual assistance from the agency.
Nancy Lyall with the Woodbridge Workers Committee helped organize the protest. She says the current system of basing FEMA assistance decisions partly on monetary assessments of damage are unfair. She says if the same flooding had ravaged a subdivision with $400,000 homes, FEMA already could have stepped in.
"We feel that FEMA should not just look at the financial aspects, but also look at the need that is present," says Lyall. "And when you look at a community that's resources are limited to begin with -- these are the people that truly need the help."
Lyall says more than half of the 100 or so families displaced by the storm still lack permanent housing.
Alondra Gonzalez, 14, says this process has made her wonder if the government just doesn't want to help a neighborhood that was predominately Hispanic. She's currently staying in a house sheltering four different Holly Acres families: "In total there's 22 people in the house -- it has five rooms and two restrooms, so we're kind of complicated all stuck in there," she says.
In a statement released after the protest, FEMA says the support shown from Virginia and affected counties, as well as faith-based groups, shows that the recovery efforts remain within the capabilities of the Commonwealth and local governments. FEMA also says it remains committed to working with Virginia as the recovery continues.
The Republican ticket for November's election includes Ken Cuccinelli for governor, E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, and Mark Obenshain for attorney general.