One is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Recovery Center operating in downtown Cleveland for the past three weeks which officials have now confirmed will close Thursday at 6 p.m.
The DRC’s planned shutdown is a sign most area residents affected by the devastating March 2 twister — which entered our county’s southwest corner and destroyed much in its path for the next 30 miles before exiting through the northeast sector — are now being served in some capacity.
Some are being aided by private insurance.
Most have received gracious hands of support from friends, family, neighbors and locally based emergency service organizations, faith-based groups and civic clubs.
And a few have tackled recovery on their own.
Those who have registered their damage with FEMA’s DRC since its Cleveland opening are now being served as well. In a few cases, some might be getting letters in response to their registrations advising they are not eligible for federal help.
For any Cleveland and Bradley County residents who might fall within this group, do not be disheartened. FEMA information officer Susan Solomon has advised our newspaper this could simply mean additional information is needed before the full claim can be processed. Applicants who have received such a letter will have 60 days within its receipt to file an appeal. Any who believe they should be eligible, in spite of the letter, should contact FEMA immediately to begin the appeal process.
FEMA explains the process below:
“Under federal law, FEMA cannot duplicate assistance that comes from insurance benefits or other government sources, but FEMA’s initial determination of ineligibility may change if private insurance or other government assistance is not sufficient to cover all eligible damage.”
FEMA further advises, “For example, many applicants may still be awaiting a settlement from their insurance company. FEMA letters provide an explanation of what steps need to be taken to change the status of a disaster assistance request. Applicants are encouraged to call the FEMA Help Line or to take the letter to a disaster recovery center for help with the appeals process.”
And, “FEMA looks at a number of things to determine if a survivor can receive disaster assistance.” The agency must be able to verify an applicant’s identity, verify damages and verify home occupancy.
We recommend any local resident who may have received such a letter of ineligibility to contact the FEMA Help Line at 1-800-621-3362 or visit the downtown Cleveland DRC.
Frankly, because person-to-person contact can be more informational and easier to understand, we recommend a personal visit to the local DRC at 340 Church St. which is the former First Baptist Church Annex. Plenty of parking is available across the street, and the center is maintaining long hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in these remaining weekdays.
But make the visit now because the local DRC will close its doors Thursday at 6 p.m.
Registration of storm-related damages incurred from Feb. 29 to March 2 can still be filed by calling FEMA or going online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov even after the DRC closes, but we urge use of the downtown center while its professional staff is still available on-site and in person.