After the initial surge of tornado survivors visiting area Disaster Recovery Centers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency scaled back recovery center hours but added a special session today for people who haven’t heard about the assistance programs, have yet to sign up for assistance — or may be reluctant to even register.
“There are some people who are suffering in silence. We need to know who you are. FEMA needs to know who you are,” said the Rev. Corey Cunningham, senior pastor of Inspiration Church in Harrison Twp., where FEMA will be available to register people tonight.
“Some people are so prideful. This is not a time to be prideful,” he said. “Let people know exactly what you need so that we can get you back on your feet.”
The one-night disaster services event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the church, 2900 Philadelphia Drive in Harrison Twp.
FEMA’s first area center opened June 22 in Trotwood followed by others in Beavercreek and Dayton after President Donald Trump declared a federal disaster in 10 Ohio counties affected by 21 Memorial Day tornadoes. Mahoning County was added to the declaration last week.
As of Tuesday, 1,611 individuals or households had visited one of the area’s disaster recovery centers. Most, 1,010, visited the center in Trotwood. Centers in Beavercreek (289) and Dayton (312) remain open.
Tornado victims are encouraged to first register online or over the phone with FEMA. About 78% of the state’s 4,027 registrations as of Monday came from Montgomery County (3,145). Another 383 are from Greene County and 94 from Miami County.
Tornado survivors have until Aug. 19 to register so it’s difficult to know how many who are eligible for assistance have already registered or ultimately will, said Leo Skinner, a FEMA spokesman.
“It’s really hard to say at this point if we are on track,” Skinner said. “I know that we have visited or are visiting every household that when we did preliminary damage assessments … a local emergency manager told us that those houses were impacted.”
Skinner said some people may still be focused on finding stability or waiting to find out if their private insurance will cover damages before applying with FEMA.
“We initially get a rush and then it kind of slows during that registration period,” Skinner said. “But some of the people are still just focused on the recovery. It’s a lot of work dealing with insurance.”
Individual assistance from FEMA is meant to help renters and homeowners with housing assistance, repair and rebuilding. The assistance is meant to return homes to a safe and sanitary living condition but can’t duplicate existing insurance, according to the agency. Working in tandem with FEMA, the Small Business Administration also provides low-interest loans to qualified individuals and businesses for rebuilding.
FEMA is holding the Wednesday event in conjunction with the Dayton Unit of the NAACP and the church.
Derrick Foward, the Dayton Unit president, said the event will give those without phones or without transportation a chance to meet with FEMA representatives face to face.
Once a household registers, FEMA acts swiftly, Foward said.
“They have been making telephone calls to our citizens and the very next day meeting with our citizens,” Foward said. “It has been a very positive response by FEMA as far as the Dayton Unit of the NAACP is concerned.”
Cunningham said that several of his own church members were displaced by the tornadoes and, anecdotally speaking, a mistrust of government may keep some from registering with FEMA.
“Everybody is different facing tragedy. Some people kind of go into a shell and some people might not be trusting of certain processes,” he said. “Listen, trust the process … People have already been helped and as long as they are here and help is available, I implore you to come out and get this help.”
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