The Post-Star (New York) - by Jon Alexander
Government may have "built" it, but so far they haven’t come.
The Federal Emergency Agency’s Disaster Center at the Lake Luzerne Town Hall opened Saturday to bring dozens of state and federal programs to residents and businesses affected by Tropical Storm Irene. It’s one of 19 such centers throughout the state.
But as of 2:30 p.m. Sunday, only four residents had showed up.
Low attendance is being reported at many of the North Country disaster centers, even as millions of dollars in grants and low interest loans are being made available to homeowners, businesses and renters that lost property as Irene pounded the region.
"People around here seem to fix things on their own and may not even know they are eligible for assistance," said FEMA spokesman Peter Lembessis. "There are so many programs available and we’re here to help people find out about them."
On Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen officials from FEMA, the federal Small Business Administration, the state Office of Emergency Service, the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, the state Office of Housing and Community Renewal, and the Red Cross passed the time reading books and texting.
State officials said some of the disaster centers could be closed as early as next week because of the low turnout. The state Office of Emergency Services monitors the daily attendance at each center. If a center is serving fewer than 10 people a day over a week’s time, it is typically closed, officials said.
"People seem to think it’s a long process," Lembessis said. "It’s not. An eligible person can see money deposited in their account within 15 days."
Even money spent by a temporarily displaced family for a hotel room could be reimbursed through the federal grant program.
The Lake Luzerne FEMA Disaster center isn’t only for Warren County residents. Anyone with damaged property in any county with a presidential disaster declaration can be served at any disaster center.
The center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Affected residents can also begin the process by registering for assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362.