One week after Hurricane Katrina’s slashing winds, torrential rains and strong coastal surges tossed most of the Gulf Coast region into disastrous disarray, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved nearly $5.2 million in disaster aid to nearly 3,000 Alabama households.
FEMA has received 27,207 applications from Alabama residents through its teleregistration line 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The TTY number for speech- and hearing-impaired is 1-800-462-7585. Internet registration is available online at www.fema.gov.
Federal Coordinating Officer Ron Sherman said that approved funds were being disbursed quickly to applicants, often through direct-deposit or electronic funds transfer. “We are committed to get immediate cash into the hands of people who need it for critical emergency needs,” Sherman said.
State Coordinating Officer Bruce Baughman urged all state residents with disaster damage or loss and evacuees temporarily in the state to register as soon as possible. “Every call brings the possibility of help to individuals and families and also helps our emergency management team identify pockets of unmet needs,” Baughman said.
A brief snapshot of disaster aid in the state since President Bush issued an Emergency Disaster Declaration that declared three Alabama counties, Baldwin, Mobile and Washington eligible for FEMA/state Individual Assistance on Aug. 29 includes:
* Of the $5,195,814 approved, more than $3.1 million is for Housing Assistance;
* Other Needs Assistance totals more than $2.03 million for necessary expenses not covered by other programs;
* Fifty-two state/FEMA community relations teams are in the field conducting door-to-door outreach in storm-damaged neighborhoods;
* Five Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are currently open and assisting disaster victims. In addition to recovery specialists from state and federal agencies, crisis counselors are on hand at each DRC;
* More than 21,500 requests for housing inspections to assess and verify storm-related damage have been issued. To date 4,388 are complete. Nearly 200 FEMA-contracted inspectors are conducting inspections;
* FEMA has deployed 726 personnel to assist in response and recovery efforts in the state. A Joint Field Office (JFO) has been established in Montgomery and an Area Field Office in Mobile. These offices serve as an administrative command and control center for state and federal recovery operations;
* To meet the needs of Alabama residents and displaced evacuees from neighboring Gulf Coast states the state has partnered with FEMA to develop a wide range of possible alternative housing options throughout the state;
* With the return of power and the lifting of boil water notices in some places, current needs for water and ice have been met. Future needs are being assessed;
* More than 550 truckloads of essential supplies have arrived in the state from logistical centers in the Southeast. Large quantities of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), infant formula, ice, water, and tarpaulin rolls continue to arrive;
* FEMA and the state of Alabama have distributed more than 1.17 million liters of water, 9.7 million pounds of ice, and 1.26 million MREs throughout the disaster area. Trucks are moving supplies from local staging areas to comfort stations and distribution centers;
* Alternate temporary housing units are being identified and 150 travel trailer units are being deployed for use in Bayou La Batre. Freight trains are transporting travel trailers from Atlanta for dispersion where needed;
* As of Thursday, the U.S. Small Business Administration had issued 12,656 applications for long-term, low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.
Providing aid to individuals and households is only one part of the disaster aid authorized by President Bush on Aug. 29.
Public Assistance (PA) provides help to state and local governments and certain qualified non-profit entities to remove debris and provide reimbursement for emergency protective services such as police overtime. Joint federal/state PA Preliminary Damage Assessments have been completed in six declared counties: Baldwin, Clarke, Choctaw, Mobile, Sumter and Washington.
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