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FEMA Opens Disaster Recovery Centers in County
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
05:17PM / Thursday, September 08, 2011
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up shop on Main Street to help anyone who has suffered damages from Hurricane Irene file applications for aid.

The Disaster Recovery Center is filled with volunteers and experts on both the state and federal level to assist residents with applications for multiple types of relief funding. On-site specialists will talk residents through the application process, review it and help determine which programs the person may be eligible to apply for.

"We assist people in the application process," Paul Buffington, the center manager, said on Thursday. "We're helping them to ensure they are registered and explain the process."

Where to go:
:: Financial Center, 430 Main St., Williamstown

:: Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield

:: Hours: Mon-Sat, 8 to 6
While residents of the Spruces have been most openly encouraged to apply for aid, the center is available to anyone who has incurred damage, unemployment or suffered hardship because of Irene. Residents of Adams, for example, whose basements flooded should meet with representatives.

In one room, representatives from the federal Small Business Administration were helping residents with loan applications and tax claims; in another, hazard mitigation experts were providing information on mold removal and ways to protect homes from future disasters.

In third room, a gathering of representatives from an array of state agencies were available to answer questions.

According to Jeffrey Trask, a representative of the state Emergency Management Agency, the representatives are from Elder Services, the state Department of Public Health, MEMA, the state Division of Insurance, the state Department of Unemployment, the state Department of Mental Health, Berkshire Regional Regional Housing Authority and the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

FEMA's individual assistance program can provide assistance for unemployment, legal fees, crisis counseling and small loans. In some case, residents can receive money for home repairs. After the application is filed, a case worker from the national office will handle the claim, which may include sending an inspector to assess the property damage.

For those who have applied, they can check on the status of their case at the center or by calling 1-800-624-3362. Buffington added that if residents provide their bank account information at the time of applying, any awarded funds can be directly deposited into the account. The direct deposit could hasten the delivery of the funds by nearly a week, he said.

A similar center has also opened at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.
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