FEMA in Freeport

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

There is light at the end of the tunnel for Stateline flood victims. President Bush declared Winnebago and Stephenson Counties federal disaster areas Thursday night and FEMA workers were out knocking on doors in Stephenson County all weekend, spreading information and hope.
Signs of recent flooding are still clear all around Freeport's east side. The overflowing Pecatonica River left its mark and disaster has become a key word in this community's vocabulary.
"My basement is completely flooded. I lost a washer, a dryer, a motorcycle. I'm trying to find all the help that we can get and right now it's been hard to find anything," says Freeport flood victim Trishann Scott.
That's where FEMA comes in. Outreach workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency started hitting the streets in Stephenson County this weekend.
"We go around from door to door in the effected areas explaining the programs of FEMA to the individuals who are effected and telling them about the disaster process," says Robert Coleman, a FEMA Community Relations Specialist.
It starts with registering with FEMA and making a list of anything you lost in the floods. FEMA will then examine each case individually to decide what assistance to provide. The maximum money available per household in our area is $28,200 and that's music to the ears of still water-logged residents.
"I was happy when I saw the lady show up yesterday and she described what they could do for us and that made me happy," says flood victim Melissa Brennan.
What FEMA can do ranges from temporary housing to transportation, low interest loans and grant programs.
"To every individual that experiences this, it's major and we treat every person the same," says Diane Desplaines, another FEMA Community Relations Specialist.
Desplaines and Coleman both say they find their job rewarding and inspiring.
"Disasters bring out the best in people," says Coleman.
People like Trishann Scott: "We're doing what we can and just trying to enjoy the holiday and do what we do."
And celebrating may soon be getting a little easier, with a little help from FEMA.
We're around the anniversary weekend of Rockford's last major floods when we did not receive help from FEMA. U.S. Representative Don Manzullo believes we were eliglible this year, because the flooding was more widespread.
Call (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired, to apply for FEMA assistance. Those toll free numbers will operate from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. Monday through Sunday. You can also register online at www.fema.gov.
Also a disaster recovery center will be getting set up soon, with FEMA representatives, small business association, human resource and the I.R.S. to work on tax reductions. There will also be counseling resources for people overwhelmed emotionally by the physically overwhelming flood waters. More information on that center will be coming soon.


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