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FEMA: Liberty Heights has no affiliation

By Chris Moore



James McRae, CEO of Liberty Heights Community Center, said his organization has no affiliation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, despite a broadcast report that said his nonprofit contracted with FEMA to disburse federal hazard mitigation money.

“FEMA has not contracted with Liberty Heights Community Center to disburse funds for Hurricane Harvey-related mitigation,” FEMA spokesperson Lauren Hersh said Tuesday via email from Austin. “They have no affiliation with FEMA and should not be using the FEMA name.”

Liberty Heights, established in Dallas in 2003 as a non-profit entity, says it is helping victims of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. It has been collecting applications from the public, ostensibly for victims to explore options to “to reduce flood losses.”

McRae agreed with Hersh that the organization has not contracted with FEMA to give out money despite FEMA being mentioned on Liberty Heights’ voluntary applications.

“We are a sub-applicant with Texas Division of Emergency Management,” McRae said. TDEM chairman Dave Jackson did not return calls for comment about that relationship.

McRae said Liberty Heights does not charge a fee for their applications.

“The voluntary application is free,” McRae said. “We only do this to help people that still need help.”

Liberty Heights received a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court on Sept. 17 to develop short- and long-term relief and recovery support for individuals affected by Harvey.

On Sept. 19, the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission said in a handout that SETRPC had received calls that said, “Pastor Airon Reynolds had obtained funding from FEMA in the amount of $50 billion through an agency named Liberty Heights. He will use the funding to elevate flooded homes, repair damaged homes and build replacement homes for anyone that is a homeowner.”

The handout said Reynolds had made agreements with several churches to partner with him.

However, McRae said Reynolds, pastor of Borden Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, does not work with Liberty Heights.

“He’s just a way for us to reach out to the community,” McRae said.

“We went to commissioners’ court and got unanimous approval by (Jefferson County) Judge (Jeff) Branick and the commissioners,” McRae said of Liberty Heights’ work.

Branick said the county’s relationship with Liberty Heights Community Center has been brief.

“The only thing we did with them is give them an agreement that would allow them to go apply with the Texas Division of Emergency Management for funding to elevate homes and do some remediation,” Branick said. “That’s it. We don’t have another relationship.”