Located at 340 Church St. in the former First Baptist Church Annex, the DRC is one of nine established in Southeast and East Tennessee counties in the aftermath of an outbreak of tornadoes and severe storms that devastated many communities.
The EF-2 twister that struck Bradley County on Friday, March 2, crossed the county line into the southwest corner from the Harrison and Ooltewah areas, and plowed a 30-mile path of destruction before exiting the county’s northeast corner.
Like its sister facilities, the local DRC remains open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The local center is staffed with recovery specialists from TEMA, FEMA, the Small Business Administration and additional agencies whose personnel are available to sign up storm-impacted residents for financial assistance, as well as to help in completing the necessary paperwork.
“There is plenty of parking available across the street at the former First Baptist location,” Troy Spence, director of the Cleveland-Bradley Emergency Management Agency, reported earlier. Spence and his staff worked closely with FEMA to identify locations for the local DRC.
According to latest TEMA and FEMA updates, some 600 impacted Tennessee residents from the storms that hit Feb. 29 through March 2 have registered with FEMA for disaster assistance. A county-by-county breakdown in numbers is not yet available.
“To date, more than $461,000 in grants has been approved to help survivors pay for temporary housing and other needs as a result of damage they incurred,” a FEMA news statement reported today. “Many more survivors in the 10 disaster-designated counties may be eligible for benefits, but may not be registering with FEMA in larger numbers for a variety of reasons.”
According to FEMA reports, some of those reasons may include:
- Unfamiliarity with the FEMA registration process.
- Lack of understanding the full scope of available assistance.
- Some impacted property owners believe their private insurance will cover damages or are waiting for an insurance settlement.
- Some storm survivors are busy cleaning up debris or repairing homes, and have not taken the time to register with FEMA.
- Some storm survivors mistakenly believe FEMA assistance could count against benefits received from other federal programs such as Social Security or Medicare.
- Some storm survivors think they are ineligible for FEMA assistance due to income levels or too little damage.
As it has done since the latest onslaught of storms, FEMA encourages impacted Bradley County residents to register their damages by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), which is video relay service accessible. Applicants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may use TTY at 1-800-462-7585. Help is available in most languages. Phone lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
Online registration with FEMA is available at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or through a smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov.
“FEMA assistance can cover rental costs, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses,” according to an agency press statement today. “FEMA can refer survivors who do not need FEMA assistance, or who have additional needs, to partner agencies such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. FEMA also can refer survivors to groups and agencies who can help them with disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling and legal aid.”
SBA low-interest disaster loans are available for homeowners, renters and businesses at affordable terms, the FEMA statement explained.
“Survivors who are offered an SBA low-interest loan are under no obligation to accept it,” the FEMA statement advised. “However, completing and returning the application may open the door to other forms of assistance such as additional FEMA grants.”
More information about SBA loans is available at the agency website at www.sba.gov. SBA-related questions may also be directed to the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (or 1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard of hearing).
For those awaiting insurance settlements, FEMA stressed, “Homeowners and renters with insurance should fill out a FEMA application and SBA loan application while they are waiting for their insurance decision. It saves time. If insurance doesn’t cover all of their disaster-related expenses, FEMA or SBA assistance may be available to fill the gap.”
For any storm-impacted residents who haven’t registered with FEMA by phone or online, the process takes only about 15 to 30 minutes.
For those concerned about FEMA assistance impact on other federal programs, today’s statement explained, “FEMA grants for housing and needs assistance are not counted as income and do not affect other benefits or eligibility for programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, welfare assistance, SNAP or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. FEMA grant money does not have to be repaid as long as it is properly spent for your disaster recovery.”
In one other reminder, the FEMA statement cited, “Income level does not affect possible FEMA assistance for homeowners ... survivors should not disqualify themselves by not registering.”
DRCs are operating in Bradley, DeKalb, Jackson, Overton, Claiborne, Cumberland, Hamilton, McMinn/Polk and Monroe counties.