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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 15, 2011

Disaster recovery center opens today in V’ville

A disaster recovery center will open today, Sept. 15, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide information on disaster relief for homeowners, renters, and businesses that have been affected by Tropical Storm Irene.

Located across from Voorheesville’s high school, at 24 Martin Rd., the center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

People should register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency by calling 1-800-621-3362 before visiting the center. To register, people must be able to provide the address of the damaged property, names of those living in the household, a general description of the damage, the social security number of any family member living in the house, and the extent of insurance coverage.

Statewide, more than 21,000 people have registered for assistance with FEMA and the agency has approved more than $38 million for New Yorkers, according to Nathan Custer, a public information officer for FEMA.  In Albany County, 494 people have registered, according to Custer.

Representatives from FEMA and state agencies as well as staff from the Albany County departments of social services and health will be available at the center to explain assistance programs and answer questions.

People are encouraged to go to the center to receive guidance about state disaster aid and help for unemployed and displaced workers as the result of the storm; information for senior citizens about state-funded programs; access to forms and services pertaining to motor-vehicle issues; coordination and assistance for daycare services; access to MyBenefits pre-screening tool; information about replacement Food Stamps; guidance related to water quality and mold due to flood damage; and for the federal Small Business Administration program information.

Help for wells

and septic systems

Residents in disaster-declared localities whose wells or septic systems were damaged as a result of the late August flooding may be eligible for financial assistance from FEMA to complete necessary repairs.

Homeowners in declared areas may be eligible for grant funding to pump septic tanks, perform required repairs or replace the system as needed. Damaged private wells that are the sole source of water for the home also may be repaired or decontaminated.

Home-repair grants are designed to restore the home to a livable and sanitary condition. To qualify for this disaster assistance, applicants must own their home, and the home must be their primary residence. Grants are not intended to restore a home to pre-disaster condition and cannot be used for cosmetic repairs or repairs covered by insurance, according to a release from FEMA.

Help for renters

Residents of any of the 27 counties — including Albany, Greene, Schenectady, and Schoharie —  eligible in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene for individual assistance are urged to apply as soon as possible.  

Renters who lost their homes or personal property as a result of Irene's flooding may be eligible for help from the New York State Office of Emergency Management as well as FEMA.

FEMA's Individual and Households Program offers two kinds of housing assistance to renters:

— Funds to rent alternative housing for a limited period of time while repairs are made to dwellings; and

— Free referral service to find a safe replacement rental property.

Renters may also be eligible for Other Needs Assistance, designed to help survivors with uninsured, but necessary, expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. Other Needs Assistance money may be used for:

— Disaster-related medical and dental expenses;

— Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses;

— Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, including household items such as room furnishings or appliances, and tools and equipment required by the self-employed for their work;

— Primary vehicles and approved second vehicles damaged by the disaster.

How to apply

Registering with FEMA is quick and simple. Call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621- 3362, TTY 1-800-462-7585. Multilingual assistance is available by phone. The toll-free line is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week until further notice.

Applicants may also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or with a web-enabled mobile device or smartphone at m.fema.gov. Follow the link to "apply online for federal assistance." The deadline to apply is Oct. 29.

Some people who have suffered losses from Irene have not sought help from FEMA. All they need to do is register with FEMA to get the process started.

"There are many misconceptions about getting help," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Philip Parr in a release from FEMA. "Often people who would qualify for assistance miss out because they are mistaken or misinformed."

Many simply don't know that FEMA offers help to homeowners and renters who have suffered damage to their homes.

Others think that, since they already cleaned up and made whatever repairs were needed, they can't apply for assistance. Still others are worried that accepting money from FEMA might have an impact on their Social Security checks or would be taxed as income by the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, some may feel hesitant in accepting taxpayer money because they think, "My neighbor needs it more than I do."

Sometimes disaster survivors assume that, when they collect their insurance claims, even if the amount they receive fell short of covering the damage sustained, that they aren't eligible for any federal help.

But the most common reason that people fail to register with FEMA and apply for assistance is the assumption that, having alerted local, county, or state officials about the damages and other losses, they automatically are registered with FEMA.

What to expect

after registering

Once registering with FEMA, an applicant can expect a telephone call from a FEMA inspector to set up an appointment. Normally, this call will come within a few days after someone registers, but almost always within 10 days.

The applicant or someone at least 18 years old who lived in the home before the incident occurred must be present when the inspection takes place.

FEMA inspectors are contracted independent experts qualified to assess damages to buildings and other property that might have been damaged from the storm and the subsequent flooding. Inspectors will always carry an official identification — and applicants are urged to jot down the badge number of the inspector who visits for future reference.

Inspectors do not determine whether an applicant or the damaged premises qualify for federal assistance. FEMA Individual Assistance personnel do that after evaluating the inspectors' reports.

There is no fee charged for these inspections. The applicant will need to provide documented proof of ownership (for homeowners) and permanent occupancy (for both homeowners and renters). For example, these might include a utility bill or a copy of a rental lease.

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