Recovery specialists with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies were still waiting for their first applicant at the Brownwood Coliseum Annex an hour after opening their mobile location Wednesday.
“We’ll be here for two more days,” disaster recovery center chief Gary Grabow said. “We hope we’ll be able to help a lot of people.”
The center opened Monday to assist Brown County area residents and business owners affected the severe storms and flooding between June 16 and Aug. 3. Recovery specialists from FEMA, State of Texas agencies and the Small Business Administration are stationed in Room A of the Coliseum Annex. Hours today and Friday will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Grabow, who lives in Comanche County, said disaster recovery centers are a “one-stop shop” for individuals to learn more about the disaster aid process. Affected people can meet individually with specialists to check on the status of their applications, learn about other types of aid that might be available and receive information about how to avoid future disaster losses when repairing or rebuilding.
Representatives of state agencies as well as the Small Business Association are on hand to answer questions and help renters, homeowners, business owners and non-profit organizations who suffered direct or indirect losses as a result of the severe weather.
“These are very good programs,” Grabow said. “People need to take advantage of them. We have lots of literature available, too, and information on mitigation — how to avoid having this type of thing possibly happen to you in the future.”
Grabow said even though this week, he’s working close to his Comanche County home, that situation is not normal. After leaving Brownwood, the mobile center will move on to other communities in the region adversely affected.
“We’re on the road a great deal,” Grabow said.
Applications will still be accepted for assistance after the center leaves Brownwood, Grabow said. The deadline is Oct. 29, and information is available by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or (800) 462-7585 (TTY) for those with speech or hearing impairments. Online registration is available at www.fema.gov.
Individuals planning to visit the Brownwood recovery center may register with FEMA in advance, or initiate the process at the center.
“It’s important that individuals first fill out an application with FEMA though,” Grabow said. “That starts everything rolling.”
Alejandro Contreras, communications specialist with the Office of Disaster Assistance in the U.S. Small Business Administration, said the SBA offers disaster victims loan-interest loans to help them overcome losses.
“We really don’t want the people to miss out,” Contreras said by phone from Corpus Christi. “The first thing they need to do is register with FEMA and see what grants they may be eligible to get. Even if they don’t think they want a loan or can get a loan, they need to apply. Sometimes they will be eligible for some other grant even if they don’t get a loan. People just need to come see and explore what’s available.”
Homeowners and renters may be eligible for up to $200,000 in long-term loans at 2.875 percent to cover a primary residence, and up to $40,000 in loans to cover contents, Contreras said. Contents can include furniture, clothing and even vehicles. Business owners may be eligible for up to $1.5 million in long-term loans at 4 percent, a rate also available to non-profit organizations that suffered losses.
“Losses don’t have to be directly to a building,” Contreras said. “They can include things like business interruptions caused by the flooding, and loss of revenue. They could involve any outstanding losses not covered by insurance or FEMA grants.”
Contreras echoed Grabow’s sentiments about being on the road a great deal recently, moving between disaster locations throughout the summer. His home office is is Sacramento, Calif.
Contreras said SBA has already approved $16.2 million in recovery loans in the 39 Texas counties which were named in a disaster declaration due to severe storms and flooding earlier this year.
FEMA and the SBA have approved more than $37.6 million in disaster aid to Texas residents and businesses affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding experienced during the June 16 to Aug. 3 time period, officials in the joint information center in Waco said. In Brown County, as of Aug. 30, 34 applications for $33,051 in assistance have been approved. The figures for Eastland County are 314 for $639,263, and for Comanche County, 42 for $62,937.