(NewsNation) — Business owners in East Palestine, Ohio, are still struggling more than a month after the train derailment and toxic chemical release.
As more residents flee the town, Nate Velez, the owner of Velez Engines, told NewsNation he hasn’t heard anything from customers, the EPA or FEMA.
“It’s it’s basically like no one’s there,” he said. “No phone calls. No customers. Nothing.”
Velez said he doesn’t see a future in East Palestine for his business or for his family.
“It’s not a very wealthy town, to begin with. So I think it’s, you know, the damage is already done. Now, at this point, why would you try to rebuild there? You know, even if it is actually safe, which who knows, you know? The stigma will be there forever,” he said.
Velez’s family currently lives outside East Palestine, but they’re staying in short-term rental units and are constantly moving. He said it’s a very stressful situation for him and other residents who left.
“So we’re constantly moving around,” he said. “Then, we had to switch from regular school to online school, and none of us, including my son who’s 9 now, we don’t know how to do any of that. So that was an entire ordeal.”
GoFundMe pages for local businesses have been created by East Palestine residents. Because of that, Velez said the community feels that it’s received more support and kindness from strangers and grassroots efforts than from Norfolk Southern or the government.
“You know, everyone has a lawyer now,” he said. “[My wife] said, ‘Have you talked to lawyers?’ And I said, well, listen, you know, insurance, the railroad lawyers, the federal government, none of that’s going to happen, and if it does, it’s not gonna happen anytime soon. So we are 100% on our own.”