FEMA makes quick stop in Immokalee

Rafael, a FEMA representative, meets with an Immokalee resident to try to figure out why her initial application for financial help was denied. (Submitted photo/Travis Anderson)

On Sunday, December 3, FEMA set up a temporary Disaster Recovery Center at the Immokalee Community Park in order to further help local residents.

Applicants who previously filed for FEMA disaster assistance but were denied, were often told that they could travel to a Disaster Recovery Center in Naples in order to get personalized help.

But for some Immokalee residents without transportation, that trip was out of the question. So FEMA decided to open a one-day-only Disaster Recovery Center in Immokalee and Everglades City.

Although the deadline to register for federal assistance following Hurricane Irma has come and gone, FEMA representatives hoped that this event would allow local residents one last chance to make their case for financial support if they’ve previously been denied.

“There is a huge need across the state,” said FEMA External Affairs Officer, Elizabeth McNeil. She also said that when it comes to disaster recovery, every application is a case-by-case issue. “In many cases, it’s a paperwork issue and we [FEMA] just need the applicant to bring the right paperwork in to qualify,” McNeil said.

However, if an applicant has been turned down for help by FEMA, other options are available.

That is where the Small Business Administration comes in. Public Affairs Specialist, Louise Porter with the SBA, said that her counterparts were on site to help property owners, renters and small business owners get help if they were turned down by FEMA. “If they are turned down for assistance, we can offer them low interest loans if they qualify. If they don’t quality, we generally refer the applicant back to FEMA for help,” Porter said.

Although the temporary Disaster Recovery Center in Immokalee has closed, applicants who have already filed and received a letter stating that they do not qualify for assistance, may still contact FEMA or the SBA for help. For more information visit www.disasterassistance.gov.

Travis can be reached at ibnews@newszap.com

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