On an overcast day in Sumter County, there’s a community center with a huge RV parked outside. FEMA is stenciled across the front of the vehicle and wires hanging out the back are snaking their way inside. The RV provides internet and phone service to the Cherryvale Community Center ,where FEMA has set up their short term Mobile Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). It’s one of the last recovery center’s open in the state before Hurricane Matthew flood victims can no longer apply for FEMA grants or low-interest loans. Cooper McKim speaks with several FEMA representatives and flood victims to learn more.
The plan is to help as many residents as possible and, according to Ken Higginbotham from FEMA External Affairs, the strategy is simple: “Determine what’s needed, where it’s needed and where it can be the most helpful and impactful in the areas that have been affected by the hurricane.”
The Disaster Recovery Center hopes to make things go as smoothly as possible for those in need. They have special equipment set up for those with visual or hearing impairment. They also have Individual Assistance Applicant Specialists who walk victims through the entire process. The ultimate goal is to help victims with hurricane related problems big or small. FEMA not only offers grants to those approved, but can connect them with the Red Cross, local church organizations, or any other organization that best suits the individual needs.
“We’re there to get people back on the road,” Higginbotham says. “We’re not here to make people whole again.” That’s where the Small Business Administration (SBA) comes in. They aim to get families back to where they were prior to the hurricane by offering low interest loans that can go out to 30 years. One couple looking to take advantage of these loans is Jerry and Gloria Domrese.
They’ve been living with their daughter since last year’s historic flood destroyed the flooring in their home. After getting a loan from SBA last year, they were on track to move back in for Christmas this year when Hurricane Matthew came and undid all the work done to their home. After being informed their homeowners insurance wouldn’t cover the costs of the new damage they’ve come back to SBA, seeking their help for a second time. “Until last year, I didn’t think we’d get help from them,” Gloria Domrese says. “But it worked out. You know, the loan was very, very good.”
To date SBA has approved over 800 loans covering $29 million in damages. FEMA offers grants to help smaller, more immediate individual needs. So far, 44,000 applications have been received and $33 million worth of grants have been approved. The goal is to help as many people as possible, but time is running out. The deadline to apply is December 13th.
FEMA and SBA stress that everyone affected by the hurricane should apply to see if they’re eligible for aid. To help, they’ve made the process as easy as possible.
You can visit their website, which also has information on the nearest recovery center, at: www.DisasterAssistance.gov
Call FEMA at 800-621-3362
Call SBA at 800-659-2955
Or download the FEMA app on any Android or Apple device.