SEBRING — The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Recovery Center set up shop in Highlands County three months ago when Hurricane Irma caused devastation to the area. The DRC, located at 4509 W. George Blvd., will be closing at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“The Disaster Recovery Centers stay open as long as the numbers justify it,” FEMA Spokesman Darrell Habisch said. “We urge anyone with questions to take advantage of the face-to-face help that can be provided at the DRC, while it lasts.”
The Small Business Administration will be there until Saturday to help people with loan applications; Disaster Unemployment representatives and mitigation specialists will be on site as well. Habisch says that SBA may be a great option for renters and homeowners to get back on their feet.
“People still need to stay in contact with FEMA,” Habisch said. “There are many applications still in the works.”
Habisch promises that FEMA will still be operating behind the scenes, processing claims even though they will not be in the area physically.
“We are leaving town, but you are not alone,” Habish said.
People can get help four different ways: by visiting another DRC that is still open; by calling 800-621-3362; by visiting the organization online at fema.gov/disaster- recovery-centers; or by using the FEMA app.
Food assistance is not offered at the DRC; a list of Food for Florida sites can be found at dcf.state.fl.us/programs/access/fff.
“There are translators for 200 languages at the 800 phone number,” Habisch said. “There shouldn’t be anyone they cannot help.”
Clients can check on the status of their claims and even appeal their denied claims.
“We urge people to look at their denied claim notices, Habisch said. “Most of the time it is a simple fix. There may be missing information on the forms or some other little thing that we need. Some people may call it red tape but this is the taxpayer’s money and we are obligated to follow the law.”
Numbers in a nutshell as of close of business Dec. 5:
• More than $2.28 billion has flowed to Floridians after Hurricane Irma through funding from the National Flood Insurance Program, Small Business Admiinistration and FEMA.
• $495 million in FEMA individual assistance has been approved to Floridians.
• More than 2.64 million registrations have been received by FEMA.
• Small Business Administration approved 25,551 loans for more than $902 million in Florida.
• More than $435 million has been issued to the National Flood Insurance Program policy holders on more than 27,344 Florida Hurricane Irma claims.