Dozens seek flood-relief information at FEMA “Disaster Recovery Center”

Victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee flooding could soon receive the long-awaited help for their damaged homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) opened a second Disaster Recovery Center in the Logan section of Philadelphia on Monday.

Dozens of residents and business owners flocked to the Belfield Recreation Center, 2109 W. Chew Avenue, throughout the day to speak with FEMA program specialists about their options for aid. Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) were also present to discuss low interest rate loans.

If eligible, under FEMA, homeowners with no insurance or little insurance can receive replacement funds for damages to their home, according to Audrey Diaz, Disaster Recovery Center lead. The average grant given to families is $3,000, but the maximum reaches $30,200.

Renters with no personal property insurance living in a rental unit considered “non-livable” may be eligible to receive rental assistance and personal property funds. Rental assistance relocates homeowners and renters to a temporary home while repairs are made to their old residence or while the family seeks to purchase a new one.

Victims ineligible for FEMA assistance can receive help from volunteer agencies, such as the American Red Cross.

The Other Needs Assistance Program will provide victims with personal articles, such as clothing, medication, school supplies, household items, and funeral expenses.

Tuesday is the last day for storm victims to receive food stamps from the Department of Public Welfare.

FEMA is providing assistance by taking applications. “It’s helpful if they’ve already registered for assistance,” Maxine Cavanaugh, a FEMA spokeswoman said.

FEMA offers individual assistance programs meant to accommodate victims’ unique situations. Unemployment assistance, insurance services, the Department of Environmental Protection and human services were among the groups present at the recreation center.

SBA offers homeowners and renters up to $40,000 in disaster loans for the repair or replacement of personal property. SBA home loans reach $200,000 for the repair or replacement of real estate.

“It’s long-term disaster assistance,” the SBA’s Kevin Wynne said.

A few residents waiting in line were concerned about the help.

“Tomorrow’s the last day to get food stamps,” Tia Clark, of Ogontz, said. The shingles on her roof blew off after the two storms. Her basement flooded and the steps have warped. “I’m happy even though I feel it’s in the eleventh hour that they do have something set up. It is a sigh of relief.”

The center will be open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mid-November is the tentative deadline for applying for FEMA assistance, according to Cavanaugh.

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