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The big golden brown vehicle looks a lot like an RV on a visit to Fowlers Bluff just sitting outside the Volunteer Fire Department building, but the big dish on top says it is much more.
FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — has sent the big bus known as a Disaster Recovery Center and a team of workers to help the residents affected by the spring flooding between March 26 and May 5 on the Suwannee River.
By Monday, the team, according to figures provided by Jim Homstad, FEMA public information officer, received 13 applications. The agency had approved $2,299.59 for individual and housing needs.
As of Monday, FEMA reported that in the 17 Florida counties affected by the flooding the agency had received 1,004 applications for a total $1,924,167.41 in assistance. Of that amount, $1,710,957.96 went for household assistance and $213,209.45 for other needs.
Levy County was added to the Presidential Disaster Declaration for the North Florida flooding for individual assistance one week ago. Within one day, FEMA was in touch with Levy County EMS Director Mark Johnson, who was in South Florida attending the annual hurricane season conference, and the agency was making arrangements for the bus and a team of workers to come to Fowlers Bluff.
Johnson got in touch with Dr. Bob Mount who arranged for the bus to be parked at the fire station.
Residents along the river, who sustained damage in the flooding which crested in late April, can get help with loans and grants to cover uninsured and underinsured losses.
The bus pulled in and the team loaded tables with telephones, laptops and other materials for the FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) staff to use in processing applications
Before visiting the center, residents affected by the flooding must register with FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or 800-462-7585, the TTY number for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired, or going to HYPERLINK "http://www.disasterassistance.gov/"www.disasterassistance.gov.
Residents who register and receive SBA loan information in the mail should not toss it out thinking “I don’t have a business so I don’t need this.” Residents must fill out the application to receive some form of assistance, whether it’s a loan or a grant.
Also, the SBA administers the emergency disaster loan program for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses.
The mobile center will be open every day through May from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., unless they get everyone taken care of before them.
It is not mandatory to visit the mobile center to file for a loan or grant, but residents who visit the centers may apply for assistance, check the status of an existing FEMA or SBA application, and get additional information about other resources.
The centers are staffed with specialists from FEMA, the State Emergency Response Team (SERT), the SBA and a variety of disaster-recovery representatives from local and volunteer agencies. They have access to resources and can help individuals with recovery.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
Oh, and the big satellite dish on the RV is so the workers can communicate no matter their location and do so securely, said one worker.