FEMA establishes Disaster Recovery Center in Purdy

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at the Purdy Community Center on May 29. The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"The Disaster Recovery Center will allow those who need assistance to get face to face help from FEMA," said Don Bolger, FEMA external affairs field specialist. "A lot of people prefer one-on-one assistance, and this gives us an opportunity to sit down and find out what they need."

Crews are working to install telephone and Internet services at the Purdy DRC, which will allow residents to visit the Center to register with FEMA. Residents who have access to a telephone or the Internet at home can register without visiting the Center.

"You can call the 1-800 number or go on-line to get a FEMA registration number," said Barbara Jones, Purdy DRC manager.

Residents can call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit www.FEMA.gov to register damages with the federal agency.

Residents will be asked to provide the following information when registering: two reliable telephone numbers; the address of the damaged property; the homeowner's Social Security number; a mailing address; a description of the damages; insurance information and bank account information for direct deposit transactions.

"After you register, an inspector will come out to verify the damages," said Jones.

All inspectors carry photo identification. Inspectors will also have the FEMA registration number that has been assigned to the homeowner.

FEMA inspections are provided at no charge to the homeowner. Residents should beware of individuals who attempt to charge for inspections and remodeling contractors who claim to be FEMA-approved because FEMA does not endorse contraction firms.

Residents can begin repairs and clean up prior to the inspection. Photos, contractor estimates and receipts should be retained to document damages.

"If you have questions or concerns, you should come here," said Jones. "We can help with the paperwork and we have hazard mitigation here, which has information on preventing damages in the future."

Some of FEMA's suggested mitigation measures include: elevating or relocating electrical panels, clothes washers, dryers and water heaters; anchoring fuel storage tanks; leveling and anchoring mobile homes; and relocating heating units.

"The DRC is more of an information center," said Bolger. "You provide the information on what happened to your home or business and we provide the guidance for where to go for your needs."

Although FEMA is not able to provide services to meet all needs, it can refer residents to local organizations that provide assistance, said Bolger.

"We will also direct residents to the Small Business Administration (SBA)," said Bolger. "Residents who are not eligible for FEMA grant money are more than likely eligible for a low-interest loan through SBA."

SBA can provide home loans up to $200,000 with 2.687 percent interest. The organization can also offer residents up to $40,000 to replace personal property including furniture, clothing, appliances and vehicles. Business owners can apply for up to $1.5 million in loans with a 4 percent interest rate.

The deadline for most SBA low-interest loan applications is July 22.

"The way it works is that the resident first registers with FEMA," said Alex Contreras, SBA communication specialist. "If the resident has damages that cost more than the amount of grant money provided by FEMA, they will receive an SBA home loan application.

"Residents can come to the Center and sit down with a customer service representative from SBA and get one-on-one help with the application," said Contreras. "If they have not received a SBA application, they can also come down and pick one up at the Center."

Through a partnership with FEMA, SBA works to provide low-interest loans to uninsured and underinsured residents, said Contreras.

"This is another option to help residents put the pieces back together," said Contreras. "That is why the DRC is so good. It represents different agencies and helps residents through the process they need to take."

Last Thursday, when the DRC originally opened in Purdy around two dozen residents visited the Center to learn more about available services and programs, said Jones.

"The most common question was, 'Do I qualify?,'" said Jones. "The only required qualification is that you were affected by the storm in some way."

A Spanish translator is available at the DRC in Purdy to help Hispanic residents who have been affected by the storm.

Local residents who were affected by severe storms in May will also receive assistance through the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt announced that Missourians living and working in Barry, Newton and Jasper counties who are unemployed due to the recent severe storms could be eligible for disaster employment assistance.

"The assistance will help workers who have been negatively impacted by the recent storms and tornados," said Blunt. "I am pleased the federal government responded quickly to this disaster request for additional resources to help these workers."

Unemployment assistance is designed for individuals who are not eligible for benefits under the state's regular unemployment insurance program, such as farmers and self-employed residents.

For more information on unemployment assistance call 1-800-788-4002.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to provide tax relief for southwest Missouri residents who have been affected by the storm.

The IRS will postpone certain taxpayer deadlines until July 22 and waive some of the failure to deposit penalties for employment and exercise deposits. Affected taxpayers who receive penalty notices from the IRS should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and late filing or late payment penalties.

For more information, call 1-800-829-1040.

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