South Jersey residents urged to contact FEMA to report storm damages
Bharat Trivedi has been here before.
The Ventnor man had damage to his home during Hurricane Irene last year, but is still waiting for something to come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, after insurance denied him anything.
This time when he applied for FEMA, he included his business on the 4300 block of Ventnor Avenue in Atlantic City. The basement business was flooded in the storm, with bags and bags of food lost. At home, he can’t go into his basement and one of his family’s two cars is at the repair shop after being damaged in the floodwaters.
The heat just came back Sunday, and there still is no hot water in the home he shares with his three children, ages 3, 6 and 9.
No matter how minimal their damage seems, residents impacted by the storm are encouraged to call FEMA or register online, said local spokesman Chris Mckniff.
“People should be making the call to their insurance agent first,” he said. “The next call should be to FEMA.”
Those calling should make sure to have all their insurance information, along with Social Security number, home address and a telephone number where they can be reached, Mckniff said.
A field agent should come to the home within a couple of days, although an exact time frame is difficult due to the number of requests FEMA has received. The agent will have a jacket and identification, and — Mckniff cautioned — will not require personal information because they will already have it. Instead, the applicant should have identification ready to prove that they are the person who applied for help.
Kevin Jennings got a quick reply. The Chelsea Heights resident had knee-high water in his home.
He and his wife applied last Tuesday afternoon, and by that evening heard from a representative who met them Wednesday afternoon.
They were approved for transitional housing, where FEMA sets up a temporary hotel stay, paying for everything but incidentals. But when the Jenningses’ adjuster tried instead to have them get temporary housing, they were rejected.
Right now, they’re staying with Jennings’ brother in Vineland, sleeping on an air mattress in the basement with their 3-year-old son. They won’t know what FEMA will pay for until they find out what insurance covers.
“A lot depends on people’s insurance because, by law, we can’t duplicate those benefits,” Mckniff said. But for those without flood insurance, “that’s exactly what our program is set up for. FEMA is here to provide grant money to get you on your feet.”
There are community relations teams out in the field to talk to people and there are locations being set up in various areas.
Ocean County has one at the Brick Civic Plaza on Chambers Bridge Road in Brick. Cape May’s is at 30 Mechanic Street in Cape May County. For Atlantic County residents, there is a temporary location at the Atlantic City Convention Center, where displaced residents are still staying.
Liliana Nava came there Monday. She tried calling, but said she had trouble getting through that way. So, she thought in person might be better — and quicker.
Nava, of Ventnor, said her apartment is uninhabitable.
The home in Atlantic City’s Inlet section that Nick Rodriguez shares with his two sisters is considered uninhabitable, although they are still living there, while avoiding the former “sunroom,” which is now the “condemned by Sandy” area.
Rodriguez’s family, including his three young children, rode out the storm, which included the house shaking and the sand rendering their car useless.
“It looks like we have a beach in front of us,” Rodriguez’s sister Maria Suarez said.
The two were helping out Trivedi at his business Monday. Suarez works for him.
Rodriguez said he still needed to make the call to FEMA, but needs to find somewhere, as his three children are now in foster care until he can find a place safe to live.
There have been so many rumors going around about FEMA, that the website www.fema.gov/sandy has a “Rumor Control” section to counteract bad information — including that FEMA is giving out cash cards, which is inaccurate.
Instead, people need to register either by phone or online, which is easier, Mckniff said. Phone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the first two hours usually having less traffic, he said.
“People need to register,” Mckniff said. “That’s the message we’re really trying to stress. We can’t help anybody unless you register with us.”
call: 800-621-FEMA from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
or register online at http://www.fema.gov/sandy
All FEMA representatives have badges identifying them. If you believe someone posing as a FEMA representative has contacted you, call the police. They can also be reported to:
Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General at 800-323-8603
NJ Division of Community Affairs at 800-242-5846
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