published Sunday, March 25th, 2012

FEMA offices open, but few seeking help

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a recovery center at Fire Station 7 on Discovery Drive in Chattanooga for those affected by the tornadoes and storms of Feb. 29 - March 2. Susan Solomon, a FEMA public information officer, said there are 9 FEMA recovery centers open in the Chattanooga area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a recovery center at Fire Station 7 on Discovery Drive in Chattanooga for those affected by the tornadoes and storms of Feb. 29 - March 2. Susan Solomon, a FEMA public information officer, said there are 9 FEMA recovery centers open in the Chattanooga area.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
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FEMA employees sat in Chattanooga's Fire Station 7 on Saturday talking, snacking, joking about picking up some Jim Beam after work.

They had a lot of time on their hands; during the two hours a Times Free Press photographer and writer were on the scene, absolutely no one showed up asking for help recovering from storms and tornadoes.

Nor did anyone need to.

Applicants for FEMA aid register online or by phone. If an applicant comes to a FEMA disaster recovery center, he or she is handed a phone or computer.

Visitors to the FEMA center can pick up a guide on how to apply for a grant, though it warns that "In response to the Post Katrina Emergency Reform Act of 2006, FEMA is in the process of updating our policies and programs. ..."

Since Thursday, the federal organization has set up nine such centers. President Barack Obama declared 10 Tennessee counties disaster areas following the storms of Feb. 29 to March 2.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spent about two weeks assessing damage after the storms before requesting federal aid March 14. Three days later, FEMA visited the state.

FEMA spokesman Ted Stuckey said that as of Friday, the organization had allocated $360,000 in grants to nearly 450 area victims. However, on Thursday, the first day the Hamilton branch was open at the fire station at 6911 Discovery Drive, only 13 people showed up.

On Saturday afternoon the center was staffed by four FEMA employees and two from the Small Business Administration, which offers low-interest loans to individuals and business owners struck by natural disaster.

Stuckey and public information officer Susan Solomon said FEMA can help disaster survivors when insurance money is insufficient. Those wishing to apply can call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit fema.gov.

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