The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center will be moving to a new location on Saturday.
Currently, the Disaster Recovery Center is located at Christensen Field—where it will remain open until 7 p.m. on Friday—before relocating to the Fremont Public Schools Main Street Education & Academic Center at 130 E. 9th St. The center will be in the East Meeting Room and will reopen at noon on Saturday.
According to FEMA Public Information Officer Thomas Kempton, the move is partly due to increased IT system efficiency offered at the Fremont Learning Center.
“We are currently running of a satellite dish out of our mobile unit parked at Christensen Field,” he said. “So being able to get a hardwire connection will allow us to be more efficient in helping those who need assistance.”
The move also allows the FEMA and State of Nebraska Disaster Recovery Center to be located closer to the Multi-Agency Resource Center—which is also located in the Learning Center building—and the distribution center at the Fremont City Auditorium.
Kempton also said that due to the time it will take to move and set up at the new location the Disaster Recovery Center will open at noon on Saturday, before resuming regular 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours of operation for the foreseeable future.
“As long as there is enough people coming in that need assistance—we will be there providing that assistance,” he said.
Recovery specialists from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) at the center will continue to provide information on available services, explain assistance programs and help survivors complete or check the status of their applications.
Representatives at the Disaster Recovery Center provide a variety of assistance to those in need, and Kempton says a big portion of individuals come to the center to check their disaster assistance registration process.
“Often it’s just people who want to check the status of their registration,” he said. “They might have registered right away by phone or on the internet—which we urge people to do—and they want to come in and talk with someone face to face and check their status.”
Currently Nebraska homeowners, renters and business owners in Boone, Buffalo, Bulter, Cass, Colfax, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Knox, Nemaha, Richardson, Sarpy, Saunders, Thurston and Washington Counties and the Santee Sioux Nation may apply for assistance for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses resulting from the severe winter storm, straight-line winds and flooding.
Those seeking assistance can register with FEMA online at www.disasterassistance.gov, by downloading the FEMA app on their smartphone, or by calling FEMA’s toll-free registration line at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585; or using 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS).
Telephone registration is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Daylight Time seven days a week.
Kempton encourages those seeking assistance to first contact their insurance company before coming to the Disaster Relief Center—if they have flood insurance through the NFIP program or through their homeowners insurance policy.
“We want them to contact their insurance first if they have insurance because we can’t duplicate the benefits they are going to get from flood insurance,” he said. “We have to wait for any assistance they may be eligible for through FEMA until they get some kind of letter or correspondence from their insurance company. Getting that started as soon as possible really helps the situation.”
Along with providing status updates of currently pending registration requests, Kempton says that those who have already had their homes inspected by FEMA contracted building inspectors and may have received decision letters should also stop in and speak to a specialist at the center.
“When they do register they get a nine-digit tracking number and once they get registered an inspector will inspect and then they will get a letter of determination from FEMA,” he said. “Often times they will see it as a denial letter, but it could just be because there is information missing.”
He continued by saying “no does not necessarily mean no.”
“A lot of times its something missing in the processing that didn’t allow their application to go further. If they run up against those they can bring that letter in and sit down and talk to someone,” he said. “They can also file an appeal at the Disaster Recovery Center.”
The Disaster Recovery Center also has interpreters on staff, as well as technological solutions for people who have hearing or visual impairments.
Other forms of assistance offered at the Disaster Recovery Center, offered by FEMA, include mitigation specialists who can help talk people through the rebuilding process.
“They can provide information about how to deal with mold and some of the simple things related to clean up and rebuilding, but also offer suggestions and options to protect people in the future,” Kempton said.
One example of mitigation assistance includes air conditioners located outside of homes.
“Should that be raised up?,” he asked. “It’s an expensive piece of equipment that maybe you could put four feet up in the air on a stand and then that will protect it when you rebuild. They also look at basement drains, materials, really all the things that can make a difference when you rebuild.”
Another option for assistance at the Disaster Recovery Center is the Small Business Administration which is a partner of FEMA and offers low-interest loans to aid in recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“It’s not just for business people—it’s for owners and renters as well and they offer low-interest loans that can really make people whole again,” Kempton said. “Whereas the funding from FEMA is pretty limited.”
Kempton said that those who come to the Disaster Recovery Center can receive a Small Business Administration package—which he encourages those seeking assistance to fill out.
“You don’t have to take the loan, but if you don’t qualify then you will be referred back to FEMA and we can then move forward with FEMA assistance,” he said.
SBA has already approved its first home loan and is working to process and approve loan applications for businesses and residents as quickly as possible.
Business owners, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the SBA to help recover from losses not covered by insurance, grants or other sources. Businesses and residents can visit SBA.gov/disaster call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. TTY users may call 800-877-8339.
As of press time, FEMA has approved 1,638 individual assistance applications in Nebraska and approved more than $10 million in individual and household program dollars.
Along with the Disaster Recovery Center, FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Specialists are also making their way through Dodge—and many other surrounding counties—going door to door to provide assistance and get people registered.
Teams are operating in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington counties and have visited more than 3,559 homes.
Kempton cautioned residents to avoid potential scammers posing as FEMA representatives, saying that FEMA will never ask for money.
“Often times in these situations we see scammers that come in through the neighborhoods,” he said. “Our FEMA people will all be in uniform and have identification, even the contractors that come in and do the building inspections.”
He added that FEMA contracted building inspectors will also have the nine-digit registration number when they come to perform inspections.
“If they don’t have it, they are not a real inspector,” he said.