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FEMA recovery center opens, but where are the afflicted?

A half-dozen of the 20 or so government staffers manning the new regional Disaster Recovery Assistance Center in Lake Luzerne sat idle for hours Saturday as not one person visited the center to seek help from the destruction of Tropical Storm Irene. The assistance center, located in the Lake Luzerne Town Hall on Rte. 9N, is to remain open and fully staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week into October. A wide variety of help is available from the agencies, not only with grants and low-income loans for rebuilding homes and businesses, but for temporary assistance with living expenses — and help in expediting replacement of vital legal documents.

A half-dozen of the 20 or so government staffers manning the new regional Disaster Recovery Assistance Center in Lake Luzerne sat idle for hours Saturday as not one person visited the center to seek help from the destruction of Tropical Storm Irene. The assistance center, located in the Lake Luzerne Town Hall on Rte. 9N, is to remain open and fully staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week into October. A wide variety of help is available from the agencies, not only with grants and low-income loans for rebuilding homes and businesses, but for temporary assistance with living expenses — and help in expediting replacement of vital legal documents. Photo by Thom Randall.

— More than 20 experts in disaster assistance, representing well over a dozen federal and state agencies, are now on duty at the new Disaster Recovery Center to aid local individuals and businesses, in Warren County and surrounding areas, recover from Tropical Storm Irene.

Seven days per week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

But on Saturday Aug. 17, the second day the center was open, these disaster aid workers were staring at the walls and chatting with each other.

Not one person had yet showed up at the center to request help.

Despite the lack of public turnout, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Lembessis said that he expects some traffic soon at the disaster aid center.

“Maybe they don’t really know we’re all here yet,” he said, noting that the center will be open probably into October. “People may not yet know the extent of their losses.”

Looking at the various agency personnel read books or gaze into space, Lembessis said he was pleased with the extensive outreach the state was offering, as well as his federal colleagues.

“I’m very impressed with the state,” he said, “The range of services they’ve assigned to staff this center is outstanding.”

Not only is FEMA offering grants of to up to $30,000 for individuals to reimburse damages to their primary homes, but they are offering additional sums up to $200,000 in low-interest loans for rebuilding.

Also, the state is offering weatherization grants to moderate-income families whose homes have suffered damage from hurricanes Irene and Lee. Qualifying families of modest income displaced by these storms are also eligible for low-income housing.

The federal Small Business Administration, agency representatives explained, is offering low-interest loans to enable homeowners to rebuild after suffering structure, real estate and personal property losses. Renters that were flooded out can receive these loans to reimburse their personal property losses.

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