The Federal Emergency Management Agency is opening disaster recovery centers today in Midway and Ludowici to help people file for FEMA individual assistance.
The Liberty FEMA center will be at the Liberty County Community Complex, 9397 East Oglethorpe Highway, Midway.
The DRC in Long County will be at the First Baptist Church, 705 McDonald Street.
Both centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Friday, according to FEMA media relations manager Alexa Lopez.
The agency’s disaster recovery centers are staffed with FEMA specialists who can explain the application process and answer questions. The FEMA center in Midway will have on hand representatives of both FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The agency set up its first disaster recovery center in Liberty County on Oct. 29 at Mt. Zion Church in Hinesville.
Approximately 16,000 people have registered for FEMA assistance in 10 declared disaster areas.
Lopez said that the Liberty County DRC was visited 97 times while open.
FEMA media relations specialist David Melancon said local DRCs provide an atmosphere so folks who may be intimidated by technology or have questions they prefer answered by a person.
"If they feel more comfortable talking to someone one-on-one then they should come in and meet with our specialists in person," Melancon said, noting that those who prefer may apply online, by phone or through their smart phone with the FEMA mobile application.
Melancon said after people apply they will receive a registration number.
Applicants should then receive a call from FEMA representatives within 14 days to set up an appointment to review damage and see whether they qualify for FEMA funds, grants or disaster loans.
FEMA assistance is handled on a case by case basis, Melancon said. The FEMA assessor will file a report and that will help determine what type of assistance FEMA will provide.
To avoid being scammed, Melancon said residents should know that FEMA assessors will have proper government ID. He noted FEMA assessors do not ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers. He said to be wary of people trying to ask for personal information or making promises of reimbursements or financial aid. When in doubt, Melancon said you should call local law enforcement to investigate.
"FEMA assistance is to help people get back on their feet," Melancon said. "It’s there to help with gaps that their insurance may not have covered or special problems they may need help with. Or we may be able to put them in touch with the organizations, charities, faith-based organizations or the SBA to place them with the right people who can help them."
Small Business Administration Public Affairs Specialist Barbara Wilcox said the SBA helped five clients apply for disaster loans at the Mt. Zion disaster recovery center this week.
"We are actually the only government agency, other than the Department of Agriculture, that can lend money to businesses, homeowners and renters for disaster recovery," Wilcox said. "They go through FEMA first. They get a FEMA registration number…then they can come right over to us in the same disaster recovery center."
Wilcox said in the declared areas the SBA has approved $732,5000 in loans to assist homeowners and renters.
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace real estate damaged or destroyed in the storm. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed personal property.
Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.
Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Dec. 16. The deadline to return economic injury applications is Dec. 12.
If you plan to file for FEMA assistance online visit: 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. Those who use 711-Relay or video relay services should call 800-621-3362.