published: Sunday, July 15, 2012
FEMA opens Recovery Center for Debby victims
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- Highlands County residents affected by Tropical Storm Debby now have a place to apply for assistance and help in the aftermath of the storm.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has set up shop at the Bert J. Harris Agricultural Center at 4509 George Blvd. in Sebring to help disaster stricken individuals and families to receive the assistance they need through their Recovery Center.
Recovery Specialist Mary Margaret Walker explained the process and the purpose behind the Recovery Center.
"It can be frustrating and overwhelming after a disaster. People don't really know what to do next. That's what we are here for, we have recovery specialists available to help answer questions and walk people through the process," Walker said.
The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center offers a registration center on site, though pre-registration is recommended for those seeking assistance.
There are two types of assistance available through FEMA: IA (individual assistance) and PA (public assistance).
The IA is available to just about anyone who has suffered property damage. The grants are given to any eligible renters, homeowner or businesses and cover a number of needs including rental and housing assistance, repairs and vehicle replacement.
"We have grants for temporary housing. We can provide rental assistance for up to 18 months following a disaster. There are funds available for some repairs to make a home habitable; minimal repairs like roof replacing, things like that," Walker said.
IA also covers medical needs, equipment replacement (washer, dryers, computers) and funeral assistance. Each of the previous items are "other needs assistance" items and funds will only be granted if the assistance is needed to a direct result of the disaster.
"The first step in this process is to contact FEMA. There is a number or you can come in here to the Recovery Center. After that we have an appointment set up for an inspector to visit the damaged property. They come out and look around," said Walker.
Within a few days of calling, if the applicant is approved, a check is either mailed to the specified address or direct deposited into the applicants bank account. The entire process usually takes between 7 to 10 days, according to Walker.
The FEMA Recovery Center is open daily from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Registration takes approximately 30 minutes and can be done online at www.disasterassistance.gov/ or by phone at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The center provides a small phone bank for registration purposes, but pre-registration is recommended.
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