The line started forming before noon Monday. People stood or sat in the hallway, clutching yellow envelopes from the Federal Emergency Managment Agency and copies of insurance policies.
Lynda DePiano was one of those in line at the temporary FEMA Disaster Recovery Center that opened in the town's Public Heath Nurse building behind the Senior Center on Mona Terrace. As of Monday, the temporary center was scheduled to be open only through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In her 22 years on James Street, a few blocks from the center, DePiano said she never had any flooding at her house. "Our area is in a flood zone, but it's been over 70 years" since flood waters inundated that far inland from Long Island Sound. After paying off the mortgage, she said, the family dropped the flood insurance, "and then you have this happen."
"This" was a battering from Hurricane Sandy two ago.
Water filled her basement, DePiano said, although the flooding stopped just before it reached her neighbor's house across the street. "We were the last house to get hit," she said, but added, "It's just stuff (that was damaged) ... I'm grateful, really grateful, because some people have lost their homes."
The process to apply for FEMA aid, DePiano said, is complicated and confusing. "You don't realize if you apply, they want you to apply for a loan, too," she said. "We were told we have to fill everything out or they won't look at our application."
He said the loans are geared for homeowners or businessowners who are under-insured or have no insurance. Homeowners and renters can borrow up to $40,000 for clothing, furnishings, appliances and cars, plus owners can borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace a primary residence.
Frederick said the SBA tries to act quickly on applications. For example, he said, in one case following Tropical Storm Irene last year, a homeowner filed applications for assistance with FEMA and the SBA on Monday. By Tuesday, FEMA had conducted an inspection of the property, and on Wednesday the homeowner had his money from FEMA and an inspection had been done by the SBA. That agency issued a loan by Friday.
"It's a good thing to have," he said. "There are no closing costs, no points, no fees for our inspector to come out. It's just another option."
Nanette Blish lives behind the South Benson Marina, and waiting n line Monday at the FEMA center to see if she could get more money from the agency. "They came to my house within 24 hours of my application," Blish said, "and I've already gotten money, but they have no idea what it's costing me."
She said she was surprised by how fast she got aid from FEMA, but added, "It's not enough." Blish, a seven-year resident of Concord Street, said like many others she dropped her flood insurance because there had not been flooding at her house for many years. "They said not since 1938," Blish said.
To start the FEMA application process, which Blish also described as complicated, homeowners must first file an application either online or over the phone and anyone who has insurance must also file claims with their insurance company, as well. Applicants will need to provide their Social Security number, current and pre-storm address, a phone number, insurance information, the household's total annual income, and routing and bank account numbers if they want funds direct deposited. After providing that information, applicants are given a FEMA application number.
FEMA will send a homeowner a copy of the applications and an inspector may call to schedule an appointment to review the damage.
At this point, the temporary center in Fairfield is only scheduled to be open until Wednesday, although FEMA may extend that based on public response.
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FEMA Disaster Recovery Command Center
100 Mona Terrace
Open at least through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
People looking for assistance must first make application online at www.disasterassistance.gov; via smart phone at m.fema.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585 for speech or hearing impaired.
Applicants will be asked for their Social Security number, pre- and post-storm addresses, a phone number, insurance information, total household annual income, a description of losses and routing and account numbers if direct deposit is preferred.
Homeowners and renters are also encouraged to also apply for a loan from the Small Business Association a https://disasterloan.sba.gov
Homeowners with insurance must also file a claim with their insurance company.
The state Insurance Commission has a special web page set up with resources regarding storm claims. Go to http://www.ct.gov/cid and click on the Sandy Update link.