The deadline to register for FEMA help from both Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee has been extended to December 15.
People hit by both Lee and Irene need to register for both disasters, and while FEMA draws criticism for bureaucracy and moving too slow with its trailers (see related story), spokesman Peter Lembessis stressed Friday that unless survivors register, they won't get anywhere.
"Don't procrastinate," he said. "Grab the phone and register now. You don't have to take the money, but we're here to help you. Everything we know shows that communities that turn to FEMA recover and recover faster."
Contact FEMA at (800) 621-3362 or online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
Also, Thursday FEMA is opening a Disaster Recovery Center at the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Services building on Route 7, Richmondville.
Hours there are 8am-8pm, Monday-Saturday, with a couple of exceptions; the DCR will close at 3pm on November 9 and at 6pm on the 10th.
To date, FEMA has received 1,726 registrations from Schoharie County flood survivors and approved $8.6 million in grants, Mr. Lembessis said.
Though Lee registrations just began last week, 41 from the county have registered for that disaster and $4,426 had been awarded in grants as of Friday.
Mr. Lembessis said he's been impressed by the county's resiliency and sense of community but cautioned against trying to go it alone.
He knows firsthand, he said, that repairs often end up costing more than expected and people who think they didn't need FEMA help quickly find out they're wrong.
FEMA help, is said, comes as grants, which don't have to be paid back.
They don't impact Social Security or taxes and there are no income qualifications-high or low.
Mr. Lembessis said he expects FEMA to have a local presence for at least a year and he urged municipalities in particular to take advantage of their expertise when it comes to long-term recovery and mitigation.
"Pick their brains," he urged. "I've researched this...the people and places that recover are the ones who utilize us.
"When a community comes together, it minimizes the recovery time. You've heard it before: All disasters are local."