In spite of occasionally being closed due to rain, FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center in Winnie is doing a brisk business connecting resources with people who suffered damage from Tropical Storm Imelda.

The DRC is housed in a tent near the Winnie-Stowell Community Building at 335 South Park St. It will be closed today and Thursday due to expected severe weather, but is expected to re-open Friday.

Hattie Stallworth, a FEMA media relations specialist, said the center in Winnie has been open for more than a week.

She said FEMA encourages anyone in the disaster-declared counties to register with FEMA. Dec. 3 is the deadline to register for Imelda assistance.

Assistance is available for homeowners for storm-caused damage to both the house and its contents, and to renters for contents damage.

First, she said, file a claim with your own insurance company if you have insurance. FEMA will get a copy of the settlement information, she said, and may be able to assist with repair or replacement costs not covered by insurance.

Assistance and information are available online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

To get a full range of assistance right away, though, FEMA has set up centers across the area affected by Imelda.

“The beauty of the Disaster Recovery Center is that we have subject matter experts here on hand to help anyone with the status of their application, to help them with questions they don’t understand, to help them complete their application if they need that.”

Staff at the DRC is bilingual in English and Spanish for all services.

In addition to registering, visitors can receive crisis counseling and advice with mitigation of future damage.

All of the services are free.

Bring your Social Security Number, a photo ID, and be prepared to give the location of your damaged residence, your current location and a current phone number. If you will be getting assistance by direct deposit, bring your banking information.

(Always make sure you are talking to a legitimate FEMA representative when providing such information.)

Stallworth said you would typically hear back from a FEMA inspector within seven to 10 business days.

Many applicants will be referred to the Small Business Administration, she said.

“We do short-term, immediate needs to help you get in a sanitary, safe and secure place; they do long-term; they can help you to your pre-disaster condition.

Luis Santos Serrano, a public information officer with the SBA, said his agency is the major source of federal funding for recovery efforts after the initial disaster response.

Much of what the SBA provides is low-interest loans, with rates that can be as low as 1.75%, he said.

There are seven FEMA Disaster Response Centers located across southeast Texas for survivors of Imelda Damage. Nearby centers in addition to Winnie are in the Jack Hartel Building at 318 San Jacinto St. in Liberty, at the Harris County Social Services building at 9418 Jensen Drive in Houston and at the May Community Center, 2100 Wolf Road in Huffman.

Centers will remain open as long as foot traffic justifies, or until the Dec. 3 registration deadline.

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