FEMA forces Pinnacle Fire victims to return aid money - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

FEMA forces Pinnacle Fire victims to return aid money

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A mistake by FEMA has proved costly to two families who lost their homes to a wild fire last year.

More than two dozen homes were damaged in April of 2011 when fire swept through part of Oak Hill.

Doug and Janice Todd who live along Scenic Brook Drive received $30,000 from FEMA to rebuild. Lily Henric, who lives across the street, also got a check. Both recently received letters demanding they give back the money.

Government officials claim a mistake was made and Oak Hill residents were not eligible for the federal aid. The FEMA money was only authorized, to help fire crews, and the assistance for residents was slated only for Bastrop residents who were burned out a few months later.

"Mislead and disappointed because we were up front with when our fire happened in April it wasn't in September and she said I don't think there will be any problem with that," said Janice Todd from her home Wednesday morning.

They rebuilt, thanks to help from volunteers and donations. She and her husband considered fighting the government, but gave up.

"We were afraid it was going to be a losing battle," said Todd.

To repay the $30,000 they used what was left of the funds raised through donations and from her husband's retirement fund.

Lily Henric was faced with the same problem. The only options offered by the government were not exactly ideal. They included immediately repay, apply for a complicated short term loan, appeal and risk mounting interest payments, or face criminal charges.

"I'm afraid of the government so I just gave it back. The whole enchilada," said Henric.

To raise the cash she needed, Henric took out a loan on her life insurance.

Both families are not bitter and say they were able to make it through the past year only because of all the help they got from their neighbors and those who donated money to help them rebuild.

Congressmen Lloyd Doggett and Michael McCaul were made aware of the mistake, and although the money was repaid the two lawmakers may press FEMA on explaining how the mistake was made and what steps are being down from it happening again.

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