Disaster recovery centers open in Montco, Delco to help with damage from Hurricane Ida

FEMA spokesperson is pictured

Charlie Elison, a spokesperson for FEMA, speaks at the new disaster recovery center in Blue Bell, Pa. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

Updated: 5:00 p.m.

Residents reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Ida can now get help applying for federal and state aid in their own communities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running disaster resource centers in three counties around Southeastern Pennsylvania and disaster survivor assistance teams are going door-to-door in some of the most vulnerable areas.

The centers bring together state, local, and federal resources to help residents navigate the different emergency assistance programs they might be eligible for, and are open to residents of any area that suffered damage.

Available help may include funds to repair damaged housing, rental assistance, low-interest loans, and cash to cover other expenses incurred due to a natural disaster.

“Anyone from any impacted areas can come here for the federal benefits and any Pennsylvanian can come here for the state benefits,” said FEMA spokesperson Charlie Elison. The federal disaster declaration for Pennsylvania, issued Sept. 10, covers Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and York counties.

Centers have opened at the Montgomery County Community College Campus in Blue Bell; at the Chadds Ford Township office in Chadds Ford, Delaware County; and at the Ashbridge Square Shopping Center in Downingtown, Chester County.

Hundreds of people from Pennsylvania have applied online, according to Elison. The application is online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

A description of the different types of assistance available, and the paperwork needed to apply for each, is available on Montgomery County’s website. In general, applicants for disaster assistance should gather their social security number, proof of address, insurance information, banking information, and current contact information before applying, according to FEMA.

Officials urged local residents to apply for aid proactively. FEMA individual assistance can only cover costs not otherwise covered by insurance, said Elison. However, loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration do not have that condition.

“What we’d like to do is get anyone who had any damage — at all — to apply for SBA because you don’t know how much you’re going to need at the end,” said Karen Knapik, public affairs specialist for the SBA.

Business owners can apply directly to SBA for the loans, while homeowners who need a loan will generally be referred to the SBA as a part of applying for aid from FEMA. The interest rate for SBA loans for businesses can be as low as 2.9% and for individual homeowners, 1.6%, and do not need to be paid back for 18 months.

The disaster recovery centers will operate as long as they are needed, according to Ellison. However, the deadline to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA is Nov. 10, 2021, and for SBA Business Physical Disaster Loans or Home Disaster Loans,  Nov. 9, 2021.

About 3,500 people submitted reports of damage through Montgomery County’s online tool, said public affairs coordinator Todd Stieritz.

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