FEMA center sees brisk first day

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

More than 80 local residents visited a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Wednesday on its first day of operations in Brookhaven.

     The Brookhaven FEMA center is processing requests from Lincoln County residents for federal assistance to help them recover from damage caused by Hurricane Isaac.

     For the immediate future, the recovery center will remain open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the National Guard Armory on Highway 84.

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     However, residents should bear in mind they can’t get FEMA relief to cover food loss only, said Donald Wade, director of the Lincoln County Disaster Recovery Center. Residents with food loss only should contact the Mississippi Food Network at 601-973-7080, he said.

     Wade said he’d seen a number of people Wednesday seeking FEMA aid to cover food that was destroyed by loss of power.

     “It will save them time and us if they call that number,” Wade said.

     Officials expected that the Wednesday totals could be close to 100 by closing time.

     How long the recovery center remains open will depend on the foot traffic, said Wade.

     FEMA representatives have said regional applicants should register before visiting the Disaster Recovery Center. Applicants may do so online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by mobile device at m.fema.gov. If online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362.

     Available assistance for homeowners and renters includes federal aid for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs.

     The U.S. Small Business Administration is also set up alongside FEMA to provide low-cost loans to offset damage costs FEMA or insurance may not cover.

     “Wherever FEMA disaster relief is, we are also,” said SBA Public Affairs Specialist Jack Camp. “We play a crucial role in FEMA disaster relief.”

     In disasters, the SBA also helps homeowners and renters, not just businesses.

     Camp explained that FEMA often cannot cover 100 percent of the cost of damages and SBA loans can make up the difference.

     “Our loans are very affordable,” Camp said.

     People should complete a loan application even if they think they won’t qualify.

     “Let us make that decision,” Camp said.

     The first step is to register with FEMA, Camp said. Then, if referred to the SBA, local residents should complete a loan application. It’s free, and no one is obligated to accept any loans offered, Camp said.

     There have been over 6,300 SBA loan applications statewide.

     Homeowners should expect a response in 14 days or less.