East Texans still waiting for Ike reimbursement

By Bob Hallmark - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - During hurricane Ike last fall, East Texas cities and businesses pitched in to help during with evacuations and storm damage.

However, state emergency officials have yet to pay many of them back for their efforts. According to the Texas division of emergency management, there's still a long list of East Texas vendors, owed money for services during the hurricane.

"We understood they would be paying in a timely manner but it has been months and it has still been a battle trying to get the funds that were due us for our invoices," said Cricket Osterman, operations manager at Tri City Charters. "We called. We e-mailed. We wrote letters. We didn't get the answers we were looking for."

The total money owed in East Texas adds up to millions. Smith County is waiting on around 190 thousand, the City of Marshall is owed over 400 thousand, and the Salvation Army over 3 million. Also, around 3 million is earmarked for Lufkin-Angelina County; money not seen yet.

"We have issues trying to administer this money and these grants," said Keith Wright. "We have to work back through the state which is going to be a very cumbersome process."

Lufkin Assistant City Manager Keith Wright said East Texas is getting a raw deal, and they are only asking for what's fair.

"We were affected not only by the storm," said Wright. "We were affected by their people, their citizens, that came to East Texas for a place to stay while they were trying to avoid Ike."

Which creates a bottom line, placing in doubt how East Texas can respond to the next disaster.

"We want to be there we want to help whoever needs our help, but if we can't get paid we can't stay in business," said Osterman.

We talked with the Texas Division of Emergency Management in Austin, but they did not give us an exact timetable for when all the money would be paid out.