Some Struggle Finding Help in Marshalltown

posted by WMT News/KCRG-TV9 - 

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) It's been nearly a month since a tornado struck Marshalltown tearing a path of destruction through the town. Marshalltown still has a long way to go before the city is back to normal. For some people, getting help to start the recovery process is proving to be difficult.

The EF3 tornado ripped through Marshalltown last month, destroying many businesses and homes. While there were no reported deaths from the storm, at least 17 people were injured.

One couple said their applications were rejected based on their immigration status, which is an eligibility requirement for some disaster relief grants. One woman, who's here legally, said she was rejected over a discrepancy from her land contract, but the recovery agency disagrees. Now LULAC, the League of Latin American Citizens, said it believes the town's recovery programs are discriminating against people based on ethnicity.

"He told me, 'Mom, Marshalltown has died'. I just tell him, 'No,Marshalltown hasn't died we're going to get ahead'. He tells me whenthe tornado first passed through he felt like he was already inHeaven," said Marshalltown Resident Beatriz Ortega.

Ortega said her home has been condemned after the tornado swept through town but she and her two kids are still living there because they simply don't have another choice.

"I don't know what to do," said Ortega."In reality, I'm alone. I'm a single mother."

Ortega said the non-profit Mid-Iowa Community Action rejected her application. The group said that's not the case.

"We do look at people who are in contracts with the purchases of theirhomes," said MICA Executive Director Arlene McAtee. "We're finding a great many of those here in Marshalltown and they all vary a little bit. So we can look at that, you don't actually have to be a homeowner."

MICA did say that tornado victims who are illegal immigrants can’t access state money for recovery. It's something LULAC said isn't fair for victims.

"The tornado doesn't come through here and say, 'do you speak English? Is this household here legally or illegally?' So for us to be asking these questions is absurd," said LULAC Marshalltown Chapter President Carlos Portes.

LULAC advocates for Latinos and said what’s happening in Marshalltown is discrimination.

"We began to see a pattern of people that were being rejected for assistance across the spectrum," said Portes. "It did not matter whether they had social security or not."

While there are state and private dollars helping disaster victims in Marshalltown, the federal government has not authorized FEMA to provide help. The mayor said he doesn't think the town had enough damage or deaths to qualify for that level of help.

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