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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Rebuilding A Life: For Underinsured Couple On Disability, There Isn't Much Room To Cut Back

Lara Solt
KERA special contributor
Alfredo and Anthony Fowler-Rainone in front of their house Rowlett.

KERA’s series, One Crisis Away: Rebuilding A Life chronicles families on the financial edge, trying to recover from the Christmas weekend tornadoes.

One Rowlett couple owned a home free and clear, and had insurance. The problem is, rebuilding in their popular neighborhood costs more than insurance is paying.

They’re both HIV positive, on disability and live on a fixed budget. When that’s reality, there isn’t much room to cut back.

Alfredo and Anthony Fowler-Rainonebarely made it inside their laundry room before the worst of the storm slammed into the house.

“Hugged each other, held the dogs tight. Felt the house lift up, jam down,” Anthony says. “And I just yelled out, we’re hit!”

Three Decades Of History

Anthony’s owned this home for almost 30 years, Alfredo joined him a decade ago. They tied the knot in New York in 2011, before same-sex marriage was legal in every state.

It’s been a very happy home, Alfredo says. Even though a tornado peeled off the roof, twisted the second story and skewered the drywall with 2x4s.

“I mean I’m so stressed out, half the time I’m ready to start screaming at somebody,” says Alfredo.

Hiring engineers and contractors to evaluate tornado damage is pretty taxing. Anthony says it gets worse when you thought you had more than enough insurance, then realize your homeowner’s policy won’t cover the full cost of repairs.

Coming Up Short When Costs Are Figured

“I went from being way over-insured to sweating bullets and being underinsured,” Anthony says.

They’ll be about 20 thousand dollars short when all is repaired, rebuilt and replaced. Alfredo is 49, Anthony is 53. They don’t have much in savings and live on $2,100 a month in disability payments. They can’t work overtime or pick up extra shifts. All they can really do? Chop every ounce of fat from their budget.

Tag along with contractor Aaron Strauser as he checks in on his tornado rebuilding projects.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.