FEMA unit left unlocked for weeks due to maintenance backlog
DENHAM SPRINGS - FEMA tells flood victims living in manufactured housing units to call their maintenance number if there's a problem with an appliance or their unit. Some of those calls are taking weeks to answer.
Debbie Gonzalez has been sleeping in a FEMA unit that does not lock. She called for help multiple times, but got tired of waiting and contacted 2 On Your Side instead.
"So frustrating when you're just trying to get the simple things fixed that you need," she said.
The trailer was dropped off the first week of November. Gonzalez says she moved in the next month, but as soon as she got the keys she noticed a problem.
"The day they handed us the keys, actually, the doors weren't shutting right," she said.
The door never shut properly and the lock didn't work. Gonzalez said anyone could push it open including her two dogs. She began calling the 800-FEMA maintenance number on the Dec. 21. Based on her cell phone call log, she's called at least a dozen times since then.
"And nothing happens," said Gonzalez.
The lock to her FEMA unit needed to be fixed right away, so Gonzalez could have peace of mind while sleeping.
"They said, 'The only thing we can do is take the message down and get it to the appropriate person,'" she said.
She sent an email to 2 On Your Side Tuesday. The message was forwarded to FEMA and the lock was repaired three hours later.
Gonzalez said she finally got to use her keys and is happy the door shuts and locks.
FEMA tells WBRZ its focus has been delivering MHU's to people who need them. The increased number of deliveries has resulted in a backlog of maintenance issues. Last week, FEMA says it met with its contractor to discuss methods of increasing maintenance response while continuing to expedite MHU deliveries. In addition, the contractor has indicated it will be increasing staffing.
FEMA says heating, cooling and plumbing issues will be put first and expects to see faster responses as the backlog of maintenance work orders is completed.
The maintenance number for FEMA is 800-335-8546.