‘He made a promise to help us and he broke it’: Hurricane Sandy Victim pictured in embrace with Obama reveals her heartbreak at receiving standardized letter after his visit
By Lydia Warren
PUBLISHED: 12:20 EST, 4 January 2013 | UPDATED: 13:34 EST, 4 January 2013
When President Obama hugged a tearful New Jersey business owner after Hurricane Sandy ravaged her home and livelihood, it was the image of compassion, promise and hope.
But the victim in the photo, Donna Vanzant, has now revealed that the president’s promises to pour aid into the area were empty – and that, after the hug, she merely received a form letter from him.
Obama visited the destroyed marina Ms Vanzant owns in Brigantine, New Jersey on October 31 and promised her ‘immediate’ aid. Soon after, Ms Vanzant wrote him an email.
‘Many days later, I got a response back,’ she told the Philadelphia Magazine. ‘It was disturbing.
Scroll down for video
‘It had nothing to do with what I was asking him. It was a form letter. It thanked me for supporting the troops. He made a promise to rebuild on national television, and I can’t even get this money.’
She said that, while she would never expect free handouts, the president had given her hope that something would be done to help.
‘When you get a hug from the President of the United States, you feel like there’s something there,’ she said. ‘A promise was made… I raised my kids to know that your word is your word. You promise something, you keep it, and that was a broken promise.’
Ms Vanzant, a grandmother who has been in the marina business since 1996, predicted that her marina suffered $500,000 in losses as well as $200,000 in docks, which cannot be insured.
In the face of such staggering bills, she said that she is now in a constant battle with her insurers, RLI, and that she is waiting on a flood policy to come through until she can begin to rebuild.
‘We’ve been paying these insurance premiums forever,’ she told Philadelphia Magazine. ‘If I didn’t pay, they would certainly cancel my policy, but now that I need the money, where are they?
‘I feel like sometimes they try to make it too difficult so that people give up and walk away. But I’ve worked too hard for this.’
Vanzant said that, as a business, she is given no help by FEMA. It offered her a loan at six per cent interest, yet she said she would not be able to make the monthly payments at such a rate.
Dashed hopes: She said that she felt warmed by Obama’s embrace and that he would help her
Ms Vanzant said that business should be starting again by March, but it looks unlikely.
‘We’re all worried,’ she said. ‘If we don’t get that money, the whole coast will be gone.’
Her situation is a far cry from the day she met Obama.
‘I was very excited and felt warmed by the embrace, thinking, “This is really gonna happen, I’m going to get the help I need, because you promised that”,’ she told Fox.
On the day Obama touched down in New Jersey – just days before this year’s election – he spoke to crowds throughout the ravaged coastline and towns.
VIDEO Obama to Sandy victim “I promise, you’re going to be ok”
‘My message to the federal government – no bureaucracy, no red tape, get resources where they are needed as fast as possible, as hard as possible,’ he said.
‘And for the duration – because the recovery process in a place like New Jersey is going to take a significant amount of time.’
Many credited Sandy with helping Obama secure a second term in the White House, with eight out of ten voters ahead of election day saying he had done a good job responding to the tragedy.
On Obama’s command, FEMA continues to lead the federal government’s effort to provide assistance and support to states affected by Sandy, yet thousands of homes still remain destroyed and derelict throughout the New York and New Jersey area.
As many as 115,000 flood claims are still pending, and many victims have only received partial payment to cover damages to their homes, FEMA officials have said.
But on Friday, some late relief was offered as the House of Representatives passed a bill for $9.7 billion in aid for victims. It is just part of the $60.4 billion aid package the House is voting on.
Ahead of Friday’s vote, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had criticised the House of Representatives and Speaker John Boehner for a ‘disappointing and disgusting’ delay in aid – aid that was delayed six times longer than relief for Hurricane Katrina.
It has now been more than two months days since the superstorm smashed into New York and New Jersey, killing more than 130 people and inflicting an estimated $82 billion in damage.
Yet within 10 days after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast in 2005, Washington agreed to send more than $60 billion in aid to the area, promising more would follow.
The proposed bill included $17 billion to help finance the rebuilding of homes and businesses that FEMA would not cover and $11 billion for rebuilding and improving the transportation system.
Boehner has promised a vote on January 15 on the total $60 billion aid package.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257161/He-promise-help-broke-Hurricane-Sandy-Victim-pictured-embrace-Obama-reveals-heartbreak-receiving-standardized-letter-visit.html#ixzz2H29o6US3