FEMA leaves county, but help still available

By Bobby Bryant, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

When FEMA closed its Darlington County site for helping Hurricane Florence victims get financial aid, the federal agency called it a “major milestone” in the recovery process.

One County Council member calls it a major mistake.

“Some people fell through the cracks,” said councilwoman Joyce Thomas. “ . . . Lots of folks have fallen through the cracks.”

FEMA originally had planned to close its Disaster Recovery Center at the Darlington County National Guard Armory, 1764 Harry Byrd Highway, on Dec. 5, the deadline for applying for FEMA aid.

But the agency closed the site Nov. 21 because officials essentially felt its job was done. Centers like the one in Darlington close “when traffic slows” at those sites, the agency said.

But Thomas, feeling that the job was not finished yet – “You need to stay there to the last hour” – sponsored a public forum Nov. 27 in Darlington for people still needing help. About 20 residents attended and got a rundown on aid still available.

Advice to residents included:

  • Even though FEMA’s Darlington center has closed, the agency still can be reached by phone or online. The agency’s Disaster Assistance Helpline is 800-621-3362, and its Hurricane Florence disaster webpage is fema.gov/disaster/4394.
  • The federal Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans for disaster-related damage to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and for homeowners and renters to repair or replace uninsured or underinsured disaster damage. The agency can be reached online at disasterLoan.sba.gov or call 800-659-2955 to have an application mailed to you.
  • Don’t give up because of an initial denial of federal aid, officials said. A “denial” is not necessarily final; you can appeal it.
  • The Darlington County Long-Term Recovery Group, an unofficial organization, is the only one of its kind still offering help after the hurricane, the group says. Contact the group at 843-332-3509 for aid or to volunteer.
  • Keep in mind that “long-term recovery” means exactly that, said state Rep. Robert Williams. It’s a long-term process.
  • He noted that one of the factors that made the storm worse for this area was that many ditches in Darlington County are clogged, often by litter, and need to be cleared so floodwaters can drain off more easily.

Author: Rachel Howell

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