FEMA flooded with requests for help after Matthew

Posted October 26, 2016

— The Federal Emergency Management Agency is stepping up its efforts to reach out to victims of Hurricane Matthew.

More than 8,000 people have already contacted the Disaster Recovery Center in Fayetteville since it opened on Saturday for help with temporary housing, repairs to property damaged by flooding and replacement of personal property, including food.

People in 18 counties hit by the hurricane qualify for emergency food stamps. In addition to replacing food for people who already are receiving food assistance benefits, the government offered one-time replacement food benefits to non-clients who lost food when the storm knocked out their power for days.

Althea Wilkerson found out Wednesday was her last chance to apply for food assistance from the Cumberland County Department of Social Services, which was administering the food benefits for people in the Fayetteville area.

"I would calculate about 75 bucks in meats and dairy products and things of that nature (was lost)," Wilkerson said. "We were actually putting what we could in coolers with ice, and that became a problem too because nobody was selling ice."

Some people on fixed incomes said they had to choose between buying food or medicine after the storm.

Mae Jones lost everything when her home flooded, and FEMA could help people like her who don't have insurance find a place to stay while her home is repaired.

"The house is not condemned. They say it could be repaired," Jones said.

Depending on income and other factors, that help could come in the form of a federal grant that doesn't have to be repaid. Those who don't qualify for FEMA grants could qualify for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

"We provide low-interest loans to homeowners to repair and replace their home, and we also provide loans for personal property," the SBA's Tamara Jackson said. "We can replace your automobile, furnishings, clothing, etc. We want to get you back to where you were prior to the disaster."

There are a number of state and federal agencies at the Disaster Recovery Center with the same goal of helping storm victims and local businesses get back on their feet.

"It's a situation where we try to keep members of the community here in the community as well as businesses, because one without the other does not work," FEMA spokeswoman Rita Egan said.

The center is open seven days a week, and FEMA plans to open remote locations to get closer to those in need.


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