Queens congresswoman launches FEMA assistance resources to reach non-English speakers

Governor Kathy Hochul, joined by Senator Jessica Ramos and U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tours several homes in the East Elmhurst section of Queens that flooded from torrential rains brought on by Hurricane Ida. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of the Governor)

Queens and the Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her team are reaching out to residents in her district affected by the remnants of Hurricane Ida with ads in English, Bangla, Spanish and Mandarin.

The congresswoman put ads out in local newspapers like amNY, Queens Post, Queens Chronicle and some Spanish radio stations. The ads include information on eligibility requirements for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hurricane assistance program. 

The congresswoman also asks residents to visit her website to find a step-by-step video on how to apply for support in multiple languages, how to appeal a denial from FEMA and request small business assistance. 

“Our campaign feels the responsibility to break down barriers to crucial information and assistance, so a key component of our Hurricane Ida response was a strategy that put language access at the top,” said Ivet Contreras, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign press secretary. “Every and any disaster response must ensure that every New Yorker, regardless of language, has access and knowledge of assistance programs that will help them recover from a disaster.” 

Since the deadly hurricane took the lives of 13 people, of those 11 New Yorkers, many have felt cheated out of financial assistance. In September, Queens residents gathered outside Borough Hall to protest misleading information about FEMA and disaster relief.

According to FEMA data, the agency approved $279.9 million for New Yorkers as of Nov. 8. On top of that, New York state established a $27 million fund for undocumented individuals who do not qualify for FEMA assistance. 

Despite the state and federal agencies approving massive amounts of money, some see checks from FEMA that don’t make a dent in their overall damage expenditures. One woman told NY1 that her damages were estimated at $30,000 but only received about $8,300 from FEMA. 

East Elmhurst resident Saida Majidi told QNS last month that FEMA denied her request for relief, despite losing almost everything in her home and living without hot water for months.

“My mother is 71. I don’t have hot water. My kids go to friends’ houses for showers,” Majidi said. “Winter is already coming. Should I send my mom somewhere? She doesn’t want to go to a shelter, but the house is going to be freezing cold. I have everything documented. Why do I have to suffer like this? Why am I excluded from help?”

To make sure people in these situations get the help they need, Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign have gone door to door to help. 

The campaign canvassed affected neighborhoods for nine weekends following the devastation after Hurricane Ida, hitting over 1,700 doors. The campaign also sent over 200,000 texts to English, Spanish and Bangla speakers district-wide. 

AOC’s FEMA assistance ads run on the following radio stations and newspapers: La Mega 97.9, WADO 1280 AM, Qué Bueno 92.7, amNY, Sing Tao Daily, El Diario, Queens Latino, Bronx Times, El Correo, Queens Post and Queens Chronicle. Hear the radio ad in Spanish here: https://ocasiocortez.canto.com/b/V3EI7.