FEMA opens permanent center in Bogalusa

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FEMA will open a permanent disaster recovery center at the First Pentecostal Church on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

This means that parish residents will be able to register their claims of damage regardless of whether it is raining. Last week, residents were asked to register at the FEMA’s mobile center at the Avenue B ball field, but that was an open-air arrangement and meant that flood victims sat in the sun. Also, one day last week the center was closed entirely due to rain.

The church is at 14532 Highway 21 South. The DRC will be open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

FEMA spokesperson Deanna Frazier said that even despite last week’s weather delay, FEMA managed to register 1,800 victims in Washington Parish alone and 25,279 across the state.

“To date, FEMA has approved $34.2 million in assistance statewide,” Frazier said.

Frazier reminds residents that renters may also qualify for federal grants.

“As a renter, they still may be eligible for assistance,” she said. “So we want to encourage renters to apply.”

Frazier said renters who were displaced may qualify for up to two months of rental assistance. In addition, Frazier said there are grants that can replace lost materials, like bedding and cars.

Representatives from the Small Business Administration will also be at FEMA’s new location. The SBA can offer low-interest loans to qualified businesses owners, homeowners and renters.

In addition, the center will offer mitigation experts who will be able to help homeowners avoid future flooding disasters.

Frazier noted that residents do not need to go to the DRC. Anyone can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online at disasterassistance.gov to file a claim. Also, once a claim has been filed, Frazier said residents can check the status of the claim at the DRC.

So far, the Bogalusa center is the only recovery center in the parish. During Monday’s meeting of the Washington Parish Council, parish emergency management director Thomas Thiebaud said that could change.

“We’re trying to get a disaster relief center in Franklinton,” he said.

Thiebaud said he estimates the center in Bogalusa will be open “for a month or two.”

He also encouraged residents who get rejection letters to re-file their claims, if they can.

“Denial letters do not mean it’s over; it just means there’s another step,” he said. “It could be just one more piece of information is missing from the claim. It could be they said they have insurance but it’s homeowners insurance and not flood insurance, so they need to get a letter from their insurance company explaining they don’t cover flooding and then resubmit it to FEMA.”

However, Thiebaud said residents only have 30 days to respond to the denial letters.