$7.49 Million Disbursed To State's Sandy Victims So Far
STRATFORD, Nov 23, 2012 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When Sandy's wind and rain damaged The Little Red School of Art & Music, owner Carolyn West had to close for two weeks, forcing her to lose nearly $8,000 in business.
And when she learned that her insurance company would not cover all the repairs, West had to pay out-of-pocket to get her school open again for her roughly 200 students.
"I don't even want to think about it yet," West said when asked about the amount of her repair bills, the inevitable consequences that residents and business owners from Groton to Greenwich hit hard by Sandy are facing three weeks after the storm.
West was one of dozens of people seeking aid this week at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster center in Stratford. She left the FEMA center, which was housed in a town building, clutching a piece of notebook paper scribbled with telephone numbers, holding on to hope.
"I'm trying to think positive, but I look at the economy and everything else that is happening in this country and I think, 'Can I trust them ' We just have to see what happens," she said.
The Stratford center is one of nine FEMA centers across Connecticut's shoreline where more than 2,300 residents have stopped in to inquire about storm aid, including money to pay for home or business repairs, recovery of personal property and rental payments for temporary housing.
As of Wednesday, the federal government had approved more than $7.57 million in aid to Connecticut to help with the costs associated with storm Sandy, said William Lehman, a FEMA spokesman. A total of $7.49 million has already been disbursed, Lehman said. The deadline to apply for aid is Dec. 31.
According to the "Individuals and Households" FEMA aid application, money is either issued through a check or transferred to a resident's bank account. Once inspections of properties are complete and paperwork is submitted, approved residents can receive aid in three to five business days, Lehman said.
"That's fairly quick," William P. Shea, deputy commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said Wednesday. Shea said the approximate 300 FEMA workers currently in Connecticut are helping those in need register quickly.
"We're wholeheartedly in the recovery phase of the storm," Shea said. He said that his office has not received any outright complaints from residents about the FEMA application process, and that any issues that have come up so far "have been resolvable."
"I know that my folks said the process is streamlined and flowing very well," he said. "I think we are where we need to be right now. We're working hard as a team."
By Wednesday, there were 9,523 registrations for federal disaster assistance in the state. Of that figure, 6,168 of the registrants are from Fairfield County and 2,064 are from New Haven County. The rest came from New London County, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Nation.
Shea said that briefings for public assistance from FEMA for towns and cities will begin next week. It was not known Wednesday what effect those registrations will have on the amount of total federal funds for disaster recovery that will ultimately be disbursed in Connecticut.
"It could be a significant amount of money that is brought in," Shea said.
So far, a preliminary assessment in eight counties in Connecticut shows businesses, homes and public properties suffered about $360 million in damage, but that number is expected to climb.
"Again, that is preliminary," Shea said about the $360 million. "As more requests come in, we expect that number to increase."
Until there is a final tally, federal, state and local officials say they will continue to urge residents to seek federal disaster aid in the event that their insurance coverage comes up short.
Elaine K. Ficarra, a spokeswoman for Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, said that a majority of Fairfield County's applicants are from Bridgeport, the result, she said, of officials in that city aggressively spreading the word about opportunities for aid.
"We spent a lot of time communicating with the public before, during and after the storm," Ficarra said. "As soon as they (FEMA) had the phone number up and ready, we were putting it out in every press release."
Officials in Greenwich, another town with a sizable number of FEMA registrations, also widely publicized to local organizations and homeowners' associations President Barack Obama's disaster declaration, which allowed the state to request federal funds and other assistance.
The president made the declaration as the storm was still unfolding, signaling to residents the severity of the storm and giving them a jump-start in their effort to seek federal aid.
"This storm went way over the top," said Dan Warzoha, Greenwich's emergency management director. "People sat up and took notice and now are trying to recoup their losses."
Warzoha and others say that as more serious storms hit the shoreline, seeking federal aid could eventually become part of the recovery routine.
"This is our fourth federally declared disaster in 2 1/2 years," Warzoha said. "We've gotten fairly good at handling this stuff, I hate to say it."
Residents in Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties and businesses throughout the state that suffered damage as a result of storm Sandy are encouraged to register with FEMA before visiting the recovery center by either calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or by going online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
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