MIDDLEBURY — People in Addison County and surrounding areas who were affected by the floods from Tropical Storm Irene will find it a little easier to seek disaster assistance this week when federal emergency management officials open a mobile disaster recovery center in Middlebury on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The center, essentially a motor home staffed by officials from federal relief agencies and possibly state officials, will be parked in the lot of VFW Post 7823 off Exchange Street. It will be open on Tuesday, noon to 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
FEMA has doled out $13 million in grants to Vermonters dealing with damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Individual assistance to homeowners and renters includes grants to cover expenses for temporary housing, home repair and other serious disaster-related needs and expenses, such as replacement of personal property and medical, dental or transportation costs that are not covered by insurance or other assistance programs.
FEMA officials said Vermonters who experienced damage and losses because of Tropical Storm Irene and called Vermont’s 2-1-1 line must still register with the FEMA to receive federal disaster assistance. Registering with voluntary agencies or with 2-1-1 does not register anyone with FEMA. The toll-free phone number to register with FEMA is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). You may also go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or use a web-enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. Multilingual registration assistance is available. Those with a speech disability or hearing loss who use a TTY can call 800-462-7585 directly; or 800-621-3362 if using 711 or Video Relay Service. Phone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
RENTERS ELIGIBLE TOO
Renters in 12 Vermont counties — including Addison County — with losses also are eligible for federal disaster assistance.
“Irene did not discriminate between homeowners and renters,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Craig Gilbert, leader of FEMA’s mission in Vermont. “We’re here to help everyone who is eligible for assistance — and that definitely includes renters.”
Renters who were displaced from their homes by the storm may be eligible for a FEMA grant to help them pay rent for temporary housing. These rental grants are for a limited period until renters’ previous homes are again habitable or they find another home.
FEMA maintains a list of rentals in the affected counties that is accessible on the FEMA housing portal, go.usa.gov/0fl. A list of rentals may also be obtained by calling FEMA’s helpline, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585.
FEMA also provides grants to renters for a variety of serious disaster-related losses, including:
• Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, such as furnishings or appliances;
• Replacement or repair of tools and equipment required by students or the self-employed for their work;
• Replacement or repair of vehicles damaged by the disaster;
• Moving and storage expenses; and
• Disaster-related medical and dental expenses.
If renters have personal property losses not covered by insurance or FEMA grants, they may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Everybody who registers for help from FEMA will receive a letter from the agency. Some receive a letter saying they are “eligible.” It states the amount of assistance they will receive and how the money must be spent.
Others receive a letter stating that they are “ineligible.”
“We understand that for people coping with loss, stress and upheaval, a letter saying they are ‘ineligible’ for FEMA assistance can be a blow,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Craig Gilbert, in a press release. “But regardless of the reason for an ineligibility letter, you can appeal our finding. When you appeal, you are asking us to review your case and we will gladly do that.”
People who believe they should be eligible for assistance or are dissatisfied with the amount they receive may call FEMA’s Helpline for information on how to file an appeal. Specialists are available at 1-800-621-3362. Instructions for filing an appeal are also in the “Help After a Disaster” guide that FEMA sends to all who register for assistance.
Before appealing, people should be sure they have gathered any information needed, such as insurance documents or proof of home ownership. An appeal letter must be submitted within 60 days of the date on an ineligibility letter.
In many cases, an ineligibility determination occurs because certain information is missing.
Public Information Officer Victor Inge said that FEMA officials will remain in the state as long as they are needed.
“We’ll be working until the job is done,” he said.
He reminded Vermonters affected by the Aug. 28 flooding that they have until Oct. 31 to register with FEMA, though it is better to register sooner rather than later.
He said that FEMA is only one piece of the federal assistance puzzle. The Small Business Administration and USDA are providing low-interest loans to some who were hurt by flooding, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development also has program to help those people.
Following a disaster SBA loans are not only for small businesses, but also for renters, homeowners, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations. Renters, for instance, may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.
“People are realizing that (FEMA is) providing grants only to make their homes safe, sanitary and livable,” Inge said. “We provide grants that provide the basic human needs. After that, it comes from our federal partners.”