FEMA Disaster Relief Center opens in Homestead

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If you are still in need of some help after Hurricane Irma moved through South Florida last month, the Federal Emergency Management Administration opened a new Disaster Relief Center Wednesday in Homestead.

The center, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Nov. 8, is at Portofino Plaza, 650 NE 22nd Ter.

The center will be staffed by recovery specialists from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the state, and will allow people to get in-person support on filling out applications and other paperwork.

FEMA shifted its operations center from Sunrise to Homestead to provide people who live in that area a chance to sit down with officials face to face, said John Mills, a FEMA spokesperson.

He said it will likely move to another area impacted by Irma after Nov. 8. FEMA is currently looking at another city in Broward County.

“We try to provide locations near hard hit communities,” Mills said

Currently, there are four recovery centers in the Keys, and the state’s busiest location is at Miami-Dade College’s Kendall campus, 11011 SW 104th St., Building K, which has seen more than 6,000 visitors in the two months it has been open, he said.

At the operations centers, people can get help updating documents on their existing files and get assistance filling out forms, he said. As of Wednesday, FEMA had given out more than $830 million in grants for uninsured damage, including rental assistance for those whose homes have been destroyed, home repairs and replacement of damaged items.

About $195 million of that has gone to Miami-Dade County residents, $42 million to Monroe County residents and $94 million to Broward residents, he said. Depending on the case and circumstances, grants can range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Though people can also call for assistance, he said many find it helpful to sit down with someone from FEMA.

“You get a lot of one-on-one personal attention,” Mills said. “A lot of people like that, and a lot of people just want someone to talk to.”

Anyone planning on showing up at a center is encouraged to register — which requires insurance policies and bank information — before showing up.

Registration can be completed online at DisasterAssistance.gov.

For more information call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or visit fema.gov/hurricane-irma.

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