Residents working with FEMA to recover from recent natural disasters can access face-to-face assistance at FEMA’s Recovery Service Center located inside of Washington-Marion Magnet High School. Specialists are available to assist with the appeals process for May’s flooding, winter storms and the 2020 hurricanes, Tiana Suber, FEMA spokeswoman, said.
“There’s a lot of people still in need of assistance,” she said. “The center is mostly for people who suffered in the May flooding, but we are there to help those who have questions with their applications and appeal letters in previous disasters, as well.”
Many residents simply do not understand how the processes within FEMA and the SBA work, she said.
“People are missing a lot of information on how to really go about it, how to start it and where to send it. That’s why we’re at the center; because we’re here to help you write that, put it together and send it out.”
Lack of information causes some to miss out on the valuable resources available through the agency, she added.
“They just kind of go, ‘Oh, I got a denial.’ They leave it at that and give up. But we’re asking people not to give up and write those appeal letters.”
Appeal letters are a formal request for FEMA to review a file once more.
“If you have the right documentation, you have the right to prove you either need more money or if you were denied and you need that denial reversed because you have additional damage, an appeals letter can make that happen,” Suber said.
The “right documentation” can be as simple as adding good pictures to the file. “If there’s more damage or the inspector didn’t see this or that, then a picture is like 1,000 words.”
While appeals can be uploaded online and questions can be answered on the phone, many prefer the benefits of the face-to-face interaction available at the Recovery Service Center. “Some just like that person to person interaction because you get all your questions answered in that one visit. They’re very patient and there’s no rushing. They’re there to make sure that you have all the options and information that you need when applying for disaster aid,” Suber said.
Victims of the May flooding have until August 2 to file an application with FEMA. “But once you’re in the system, even after that deadline, you can still get help with FEMA,” Suber clarified.
The Recovery Service Center is scheduled to close this Friday, July 16. No appointment is necessary.
Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.