FEMA Closing Johnston Recovery Center

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have announced the closure of the Johnston County Disaster Relief Center. The center, located at Johnston Industries at 912 N. Brightleaf Boulevard in Smithfield will cease operations at 6 p.m. today (Friday).

“It’s time to close, this is a joint decision between the state and FEMA,” Sharon Karr, media relations field specialist for FEMA said. “The criteria they use for closing a disaster recovery center is traffic and need. They determine if the numbers are down and they have not been helping many people.”

With the closure of the Smithfield center, area residents will now have to rely on either telephone, internet or a trip to the Cumberland County center in Fayetteville.  It’s located at the Department of Social Services, 1225 Ramsey Street East.

“Once the recovery center closes you can still register either by phone or online,” Ms. Karr said. “So you still have help available. It doesn’t mean you can’t get help.”

Over the life of the Johnston County DRC more than 2,000 visitors to the center were served. Aside from the visitors to the center, FEMA officials registered 1,669 victims in Johnston County through Tuesday. That translated to a total of $1,951,554 in total aid to the county. The total includes $1,510,864 in Housing Assistance and another $440,690 in Other Needs Assistance.

In Sampson County, as of Tuesday, FEMA had dispensed a total of $1,773,789 in assistance to victims. Housing Assistance totaled $1,506,379 with Other Needs getting a total of $267,410.

Harnett County matched Johnston County in registrations with 1,669. FEMA approved a total of $1,209,884 with $1,027,47 going to Housing Assistance and the remaining $182,637 to Other Needs Assistance.

All forms of assistance will remain available to victims, including Housing Assistance and Other Needs. Housing Assistance includes both temporary housing issues and assistance for locating a new place to live. Other Needs includes other issues beyond housing.

Victims are also encouraged to follow the instructions in any letters received from the agency. She says just because it says they aren’t currently eligible for help, it doesn’t mean they won’t get it.

“If you receive an eligibility letter you need to take time to read it,” she said. “Often times it’s something that’s easy to fix. There might be an incorrect Social Security number, there might be documentation missing.”

On the other hand, if victims receive an award and they feel the amount is incorrect there is a process to appeal that as well.  Ms. Karr said recipients should supply needed documentation, such as an estimate from a licensed contractor, as to what other issues have arisen.  “They have 60 days within receipt of the letter,” she said. “If there’s a disaster recovery center available to them they can go there. They can also use the telephone hotline (1-800-621-3362) to help them through the process.”

Ms. Karr stressed a need for victims to remain in contact with the agency after they are registered. She said good record keeping and communication are vital.  “Keep receipts, keep rental receipts, keep everything,” she said. “If you have a change in where you live, your phone number, anything. Just keep in touch.” Courtesy The Daily Record