NEWNAN, Ga. — With just days left, people who live in Newnan, a community ravaged by a tornado a few months ago, are holding out hope that Governor Brian Kemp will go to bat for them with the federal government.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied individual help for people in Newnan, and the deadline for the governor to appeal is quickly approaching.
Newnan city Councilwoman Cynthia Jenkins said Kemp has until this Saturday to submit an appeal. She said the individual assistance could help families with lower interest rate loans and direct assistance for families to find temporary housing.
"I've gotten a little nervous that the deadline is approaching, but from what I understand, they are taking all the new updates, everything we have given them, to show supportive evidence," Jenkins said.
Director of non-profit Hope Global, Luke Ayers, has seen the need first-hand. His organization helps the community with affordable housing. He said there are still blue tarps and damage throughout the community.
"I'm very hopeful and nervous at the same time to be honest, because what we do as a nonprofit, we have an affordable housing initiative," Ayers said. "It was a crisis before the storm and now it's just been expedited...the crisis of affordable housing."
He said if Kemp is able to appeal, it will help many of the families they serve have access to help.
"I personally, with our non-profit, have 50 individuals who are elderly homeowners, who might not have had insurance, who are in houses that are frankly unlivable," he added.
It's been more than two months since the devastating EF-4 tornado hit that city and damaged more than 1,700 homes, according to an assessment done. Residents continue to pick up the pieces.
Jenkins said if Kemp does appeal, she's hopeful Newnan could receive that aid this time around because she said recent information shows that more homes were damaged than initially believed.
"There were some homes that weren't captured in the first run of numbers," she said. "We went back and looked at homes that have had damage that we couldn't see when debris was in the street or that were happening in the back of a home. People who had leaks weeks later that didn't know they had damage but they did."
If the help doesn't come, many residents like Ayers, fear the worst.
"To be frank and transparent, it will be a disaster that will be worse than a tornado or COVID," Ayers added. "I don't know what we'll do. It really will be insurmountable of I don't know what we'll do, so us personally, we're going to work one family at a time until we can help all the families. That's all we know how to do."
Other residents, like Renea Carl and Taña Lee, plead that this help come their way.
"So many of our beautiful homes that are destroyed... I don't understand why this hasn't been pushed through before now," said Carl, while wearing a Newnan Strong shirt. "I'm hoping Governor Kemp pulls through for everyone that voted for him."
Lee echoed her thoughts.
"Trees are gone, houses are gone, it's just heartbreaking because even the houses that are going to be coming up, they won't be able to afford moving into these pretty new houses because the prices changed," Lee said. "Governor Kemp should do what's right. He was here as well. He had a photo op in front of Newnan High School and he's seen the destruction first-hand. He's seen the toll it's taken on our community."
Newnan storm damage from severe weather
Jenkins also said she received an encouraging call from FEMA, saying that if they do not receive this help, FEMA will look at other agencies to help those who lost so much in late March.
"I do appreciate that," she said. "That's very important considering that so many people were uninsured or underinsured for this tornado."
In a Facebook post, Jenkins wrote:
"We are nearing the end of Week 10 post #NewnanTornado and people are still in need. Anyone driving around will see tarps, destroyed homes, and lives interrupted.
Help has also arrived from FEMA in Public Assistance. Though we were denied the Individual Assistance, we are able to appeal. The local governments have provided additional information and await Governor Brian Kemp 's approval and submittal of the appeal that is due Saturday, June 5th! You can call or email his office at https://georgia.gov/contact-georgiagov to let him know we do want him to submit the appeal this week."
11Alive reached out to Governor Kemp's office to check in on the status of the potential appeal and have not yet heard back.