FEMA to open local office to help people with flooding and backup applications

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 27, 2021

File photo by K. Michelle Moran

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GROSSE POINTES — It appears that the Grosse Pointes will soon be getting a local FEMA office to assist residents and businesses with the process of filling out claims for damage caused by recent flooding and basement backups.

By email, Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said the Grosse Pointe City Council voted unanimously during a special meeting July 26 in favor of an agreement that allows FEMA to use space inside the new City Public Safety Building, at 17320 Mack Ave., for a local Recovery Assistance Center. The City is offering use of its building at no cost to FEMA.

During a Grosse Pointe Farms City Council meeting July 26 at Pier Park, Farms City Manager Shane Reeside alluded to the City site as the future temporary FEMA office.

“They will be setting up an office in the Grosse Pointes,” Reeside said of FEMA. “We’re hoping to have an announcement on that in the near future.”

At press time, it wasn’t known when the local FEMA office would open, or what its hours of operation would be.

“We all offered locations (for office use),” Grosse Pointe Farms Mayor Louis Theros said July 26. “They (FEMA) chose Grosse Pointe City as the middle (of the affected area).”

Reached before the Grosse Pointe City Council meeting, FEMA Media Relations Specialist La-Tanga Hopes said she couldn’t confirm that the City site had been selected for a Recovery Assistance Center, only that it “may be a facility that we’re considering.” She said a decision hadn’t been finalized.

“We are looking at various facilities, but nothing is confirmed at this time,” Hopes said.

On July 15, the White House announced that President Joe Biden had declared a major disaster for areas of the state impacted by powerful storms June 25 to 26 that produced flooding and, in some areas, tornadoes. That declaration frees up federal aid for those who experienced flooding and backups.

Theros said that FEMA “will most likely not cover” costs such as the loss of carpeting or a recreation room in the basement, but they will reimburse residents for “elements essential to living there,” such as the loss of a furnace or hot water heater. Local officials have been cautioning residents that FEMA will help with basic needs, but it isn’t the same as an insurance policy in terms of what it will pay to replace.

As Hopes explained of FEMA aid, “We’re here to make sure that you’re safe.”

Theros said the U.S. Small Business Administration — which is now also offering assistance to residents, businesses and nonprofits in the form of low-interest loans — has different criteria as far as what it will cover. For example, if a person used their basement to operate their business, those damages might qualify for a loan, Theros said.

Farms City Councilman Neil Sroka told residents that even if they’re denied aid from FEMA in their first application, they should appeal.

“And keep appealing on that,” Sroka said.

He also urged residents to seek help from the SBA.

“You may be offered small business loans even if you don’t have a business operating out of your homes,” Sroka said.

He said federal assistance “may even cover” the loss of vehicles, many of which were ruined when streets flooded in June.

“And you don’t have to accept it, even if you apply,” Sroka said of the SBA loans.

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