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FEMA Sets Up Shop In West

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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WEST (CBSDFW.COM) - FEMA has set up shop in the stricken Texas town of West. The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened its Disaster Relief Center Saturday to offer grants and other services to residents and businesses.

A FEMA representative inspected Ashley Gassaway’s home Saturday night, hours after she registered her loss with the agency. Her rent house was shifted off the foundation and the roof damaged. She may have to move. “They said they could — if we needed to leave — they’d help us find shelter and help us out in food, clothing… anything of need,” Gassaway told CBS 11 News. She was among some 230 residents who met with FEMA representatives housed at the PointWest Bank at 210 North Roberts Road after first registering by phone to get needed paperwork started.

The agency said it’s especially looking for the under-insured and uninsured, according to spokeswoman Susan Solomon. “They may be able to get assistance with housing, temporary housing. Also repairs to their home. If they lost the vehicle they used to be able to get to school or work, we may also be able to help with that.”

Joy Beaubien has insurance, but her agent recommended she register anyway. “Because if I do have damage, FEMA could possibly help pay for what the insurance doesn’t pay for.”

Several other relief agencies are housed with FEMA, including the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the Red Cross and the St. Vincent de Paul Society; all can offer temporary cash or vouchers. But also there is the Small Business Administration, which can qualify people for loans, according to Kevin Wynne. “Say the insurance doesn’t cover their loss [sic] they come to the SBA, get a low-interest loan for 1.6 percent for homeowners and renters to cover their primary residence and their personal possessions.” Wynne adds the SBA can also provide businesses with loans of up to $2 million at 4 percent for 30 years.

Having insurance is not a requirement for FEMA aid. “You do not have to be insured to register with FEMA,” says the agency’s Solomon, who adds that all residents are welcome. “We’re seeing that people are still distressed. But getting on with the process of recovery, making that call to FEMA, coming to the disaster recovery center they’re able to talk one-on-one with disaster recovery specialists that can help them get back on their feet.”

The center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day at the PointWest Bank location just east of downtown. Solomon urges people to pre-register with FEMA by telephone before arriving at the Disaster Relief Center. That can be done by dialing 800.621.FEMA (800.621.3362) It should take about 15 minutes, according to Solomon. She says residents should be prepared to give basic information, like the address of the damaged property, whether they have insurance, their Social Security number along with the legal name given on the SSI account (no nicknames) and a bank account number into which FEMA may electronically deposit money should it award a grant.

It also urges residents to go ahead and apply for loans with the SBA because if the SBA should turn them down, that would automatically trigger consideration for further FEMA help, according to both FEMA’s Solomon and the SBA’s Wynne.

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