Although the application period to apply for federal and state of Florida disaster assistance ended on Feb. 28, other deadlines are pending and important services continue to be available to individuals and communities affected by the four hurricanes of 2004.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT), along with other disaster-related agencies and organizations, will reportedly continue to assist those affected by providing services and information.
At present, there are 14 fixed-site and seven mobile Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) operating throughout the state. These centers serve applicants Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beginning Monday, March 21, there will be 14 fixed-site and two mobile DRC units in operation. DRC operations will continue to gradually decrease in number until they are no longer required.
The FEMA Helpline continues to provide information services to applicants Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will assist callers for an indefinite period of time. Applicants may use this service by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number for the speech- and hearing-impaired is 1-800-462-7585.
Crisis counseling services, at no charge to the applicant, will be available through the end of 2005. Anyone in need of this assistance may contact his or her local Mental Health Office.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) may still make an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to a small business with economic rather than physical losses. There is a deadline for each hurricane: Charley, May 13; Frances, June 6; Ivan, June 16; and, Jeanne, June 27. Only one application is necessary for a business affected by two or more storms. Business owners may apply by visiting a DRC, an SBA outreach office, or by calling SBA at 1-800-359-2227, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
A large volume of storm debris still remains throughout the state that poses a threat to public health and safety. FEMA has extended the pick-up deadline for eligible debris to April 20. FEMA is reimbursing communities and county governments for 90 percent of their collection costs during this period.
FEMA mitigation counselors are ready to assist anyone with information and publications that help homeowners and business owners with rebuilding decisions. Counselors are located in the DRCs and at home renovation centers throughout the state. They will visit more than 100 locations statewide, operating on a weekly rotation basis. Their ongoing schedule is available by logging onto the Disaster Contractor’s Network Web site at www.dcnonline.org and clicking on the “events” column.
Flood insurance policy holders with substantial home damage from flooding (50 percent or more of the pre-disaster market value) may file a claim for up to $30,000 to help cover Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) rebuilding costs. ICC claims are in addition to the original flood claim.
FEMA teams of housing specialists are making contact with the more than 12,500 families now in temporary housing (travel trailers and mobile homes) provided by the agency. These workers will visit with each occupant on a periodic basis to assess his or her ongoing housing needs and assist with permanent housing relocation plans.
Vacated travel trailers and mobile homes are for sale to the public through a bidding process on the Internet. The General Services Administration (GSA) is conducting the sale of these units. The auction is on the GSA Web site at www.gsaauctions.gov.
Some applicants require financial assistance beyond the limitations of federal and state disaster programs. Many private organizations are aware of this need and are united under the Volunteer Agency (VOLAG) supervision. VOLAG focuses on the immediate and long-term needs of applicants and directs specific assistance where it is needed. The participating organizations are committed to helping applicants as long as the need exists.
Filing an application for federal and state disaster assistance is only the first step in the recovery process. FEMA, SERT and many other partners in the recovery effort are still here and will reportedly continue to assist those in need for a long time to come.
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