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FEMA repays resident
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Gays Mills resident Blanche Gabel recently won her battle with FEMA after the agency had previously demanded and received repayment of a portion of the money she received for damages after the floods in 2007 and 2008.  

In 2011, FEMA notified Gabel that she had been overpaid $520 and requested repayment. She appealed once and was denied. As of May 2011, they had begun to charge her interest despite the fact that she was continuing the appeals process.

Gabel, who moved to her home in 2002, received $34,000 from her insurance company for repairs and a $24,000 grant from Community Development Alternatives in Prairie du Chien to build a room onto her house so the furnace and hot water heater could be moved out of the basement. She also received $6,631 from FEMA, but $4,500 of that was to help her replace her 1997 Ford Taurus, which was submerged and not covered by her auto insurance policy.

In 2011, beleaguered flood victim was contacted by a Good Samaritan from Reedsburg. The middle-aged man had read a newspaper story about FEMA’s claims that she and another Gays Mills resident, Phyllis Drake, had been improperly reimbursed by the agency and were being required to repay. Both elderly women were still in appeals process at the time.

The Reedsburg benefactor paid the money Gabel was said to owe to FEMA.

“He said he wished he could help both of us, but he just didn’t have enough,” Gabel recalled. “I promised to repay him once I won my appeal.”

In December 2011, Congress passed a law providing FEMA discretion to waive certain debts from disasters declared between August 2005 and December 2010. That new law worked in Gabel’s favor. Meeting the refund criteria, she was notified in June that she would be reimbursed for the payment she had made on her behalf.

Last week, the check finally came and Gabel made good on her promise. Gabel mailed her repayment to her benefactor just in time for his birthday.

“I just had a feeling that if I kept fighting, it would be returned,” Gabel said. “Call it karma, or whatever you like. You get back what you give. What you choose to do, how you choose to respond, that shapes what the future brings.”