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|FEMA stay extended|
The anticipated local disaster recovery center of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had its stay in Franklin Parish extended before it opened Monday.
The FEMA staff arrived over the weekend with plans to stay through the Friday workday, but an extension request by Franklin Parish Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness Director Mitch Reynolds will keep them on the job for a full week.
"Basically, we're the help line in person," said Jan Foucault, site manager of the FEMA office which opened at 710 B Prairie Street in Winnsboro. The four-person staff will be available from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. through Monday, Oct. 6. The center will be closed Sunday, Oct. 5.
"If there are people who have not registered with FEMA, we can help get them into the process, and if they are in the process we can help them with a 'status check' to see where they are. That's about all we can do right now," Foucault said of the four-person staff at the disaster recovery center.
The center opened for questions and "status checks" about 1 p.m. Monday in downtown Winnsboro after a landowner-lessee agreement provided a rent-free space to FEMA.
Police Juror Leroy Scott, suspended plans to open a combination discount computer store and photography studio in the office space located on Prairie Street. He gained permission from owner Steve Thompson before offering the space to parish and city officials.
The location is commonly known as the Old Commodities Building, directly across from the public library.
"I'm just blessed that I can offer this space to help my constituents" Scott said, "I just moved my stuff out so they could move theirs in."
FEMA representatives came to the area Sunday via a specially outfitted bus that carried office equipment and contained satellite connections for computers. They spent Monday morning hurriedly preparing for the 1 p.m. opening.
The Small Business Administration also has staff in the recovery center. Michael Peacock, an SBA communications specialist said, "Everyone should take a look at how FEMA and SBA work together. We have programs that can benefit homeowners, renters and others in addition to non-profits, like churches, and businesses.
Those planning to visit the recovery center are asked to park in front of the City Court building but use the front entrance on Prairie Street.
Foucault said residents with claim numbers can check their status by calling a hot line at 800 621-3362. Otherwise, the staff can use its computers to access the same information.
Peacock said it's not unusual for the SBA to be able to provide assistance in addition to FEMA aid or in place of a rejected request. "It's definitely worth taking a look," he said. "We're in the same building and we'll be here through Monday."
The disaster recovery center is a result of Franklin Parish's declaration as a disaster area following Hurricane Gustav last month. Flooding from the 51-hour rain, which left 21 inches of rainfall in the parish contributed to the disaster.