FROMBERG - The floods that swept across Montana this summer were a disaster for many, but for one Fromberg family, their nightmare was only just beginning.
After considerable flood damage hit the home of a Fromberg woman, whom MTN News is identifying by her first name, Kelle, she hoped that FEMA would help with the damages and recovery. Instead, it took nearly eight months to hear back from the agency, she was also victimized by a scam.
“It’s frustrating for sure because they didn’t help us get going,” Kelle said. “I broke down and cried. The last thing you should have to deal with is having your identity stolen.”
Kelle asked MTN not to use her last name because she was a victim of identity fraud this summer. She said it began after the floods when paperwork was delivered to her Fromberg home from someone claiming to be a FEMA representative, asking her to provide more personal information about her life.
After speaking with an actual FEMA rep who visited Fromberg a couple weeks later, Kelle learned that the scam is actually a common one.
“He said, ‘Well we’ve already seen several of those, and this is an issue everywhere we go.’ And I said, ‘if it’s an issue everywhere you go, why doesn’t FEMA do something about it?'” Kelle said.
And that was just the beginning of the frustrations to come. Kelle said her family filed a legitimate claim with FEMA in July, but she didn't hear back until January — which she said was already too late to help with repairs.
"We just did it on our own with some help from family and the community," Kelle said.
Fortunately, others around the state have had a much different experience. According to numbers provided by FEMA, the agency has paid out on 118 property losses in Montana in 2022 — adding up to $6.12 million.
FEMA Administrator for Region 8 Nancy Dragani said that while the process can be frustrating, it isn't FEMA's job to provide complete recovery.
“FEMA provides funding and grants when there’s a major disaster declaration that help begin the recovery process," Dragani told MTN News. "They do not help people fully recover."
And with another spring just around the corner, Dragani is urging more Montanans to invest in flood insurance regardless of where they live.
“One inch of rainwater in your home can cause roughly $25,000 worth of damage,” Dragani said.
Many property owners who suffered losses last summer didn't have flood insurance, largely because they said it was too expensive, at times costing more than the damage suffered to their homes.
That's part of why Kelle and her family have no plans to buy coverage.
“We’ve heard from people that did have flood insurance, and they’re having to fight tooth and nail to get the little bit of repairs done," Kelle said.