Denied Harvey aid, Victorian gets appeal help

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

Dec. 3, 2017 at 9:18 p.m.
Updated Dec. 4, 2017 at 8:08 a.m.

Terri Schneider, 73, stands in front of her office and home that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The roof is covered in tarp.

Terri Schneider, 73, stands in front of her office and home that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The roof is covered in tarp.   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

About six months following Terry Schneider's brain surgery, Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and damaged her home and business space.

She applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and for a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan but was denied for both Sept. 16.

"I wasn't getting anywhere," said Schneider, 72. "I must have been down at (Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center) eight to 10 times - nothing, nothing, nothing."

With the help of the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, she appealed the SBA's denial and was approved for a disaster loan of $25,000 on Nov. 26. Schneider said writing an appeal letter can make all the difference, and others should, too, if they still need help after being denied.

Schneider had to have surgery because she had a brain aneurysm that was most likely the result of a wreck in 2000, she said. Before her brain surgery, she was an optometrist in Victoria and Aransas Pass.

After being denied disaster assistance, Schneider reached out to one of her close friends, who recommended she go see Joe Humphreys with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

Humphreys, the center's executive director, said the two met the day before Thanksgiving and wrote an appeal email to the SBA on Schneider's iPhone.

"The appeal process is something that more people need to know about," he said. "Sometimes the reason they're declined is a minor issue. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what the problem was with Terry's."

When an applicant writes an appeal letter, they're telling the SBA they want the agency to look at their case again and mention any extenuating circumstances. When someone sends an appeal letter, Humphreys said, higher level officials make the decision to approve it or not.

"It's really letting the SBA know (about the situation)," he said. "(If) you don't let them know, then they go down the road and look at another one."

Humphreys said when people are denied, they often automatically move on and look for other options. He said the process can take time, but if the appeal is approved, it's worth the wait, especially if someone needs the help.

SBA disaster loans are available to homeowners, renters, small business owners and nonprofits for damages to buildings, loss of property and loss of business income because of Hurricane Harvey, Humphreys said.

"There are so many people that need help," he said.

Schneider's roof was substantially damaged, letting water into her upstairs living area. She owns a two-story building and has her optometrist office downstairs along with a smaller living area.

Schneider hired Daniel Stillings to replace her roof and treat the mold in her home. Stillings is certified to remediate mold by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"The roof increased the moisture level in the upper part of the building there," Stillings said. "The roof was blown off, and water was coming inside all over."

She moved downstairs and avoids the upstairs because mold has formed. Schneider is highly allergic to mold.

Stillings covered the mold with a tarp as soon as Schneider hired him to keep it from spreading and has yet to physically test it.

Now that Schneider has the SBA disaster loan, she has options for what she's going to do next, she said. When she was denied, she was at a standstill.

Once she finishes repairing her roof and air conditioning and removing the mold from her home, she hopes to become an optometrist again or rent the business space to a barber.

"I need to sharpen up my skills and get myself going," she said. "I'm ready."

Humphreys said although all he did was help Schneider type an email, he said it's awesome he was able to assist her.

"She was so happy when she called and told me she got that letter approving her. It was the coolest thing," he said. "She was going to be able to fix a residence and get her rental property back. She could see in a month everything was going to be OK."


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