The local Disaster Recovery Center is still open despite the government shutdown. But that could soon change if more flood victims don't visit the center, which is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA spokesperson Renee Bafalis says that visitor numbers at the El Paso County DRC have been low, and that the state could shut it down if it's not more well-used. That would leave flood victims to figure out a maze of paperwork on their own.
Bafalis says many people don't realize that they are eligible to receive financial assistance for losses. DRC workers can help flood victims get help with property damage (including damage not covered by insurance), temporary rental assistance, medical and dental costs that resulted from the storm, and even funeral expenses.
The first step is to go to the local office at the Colorado Springs Fire Training Center on 375 Printers Pkwy. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. DRC workers will help victims get registered with the government and schedule a time for a FEMA inspector to look over damaged property. From there, FEMA will offer assistance or deny it.
If help is denied, the DRC can assist victims in appealing the decision, while also helping them apply for help from the next safety net — the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers loans with interest rates as low as 1.9 percent not only to businesses, but also to homeowners, renters, nonprofits and churches.
"If you get paperwork from SBA, you've got to fill it out, and if you don't fill it out, it stops everything," Bafalis says. "... If you stop it, you're going to basically leave money lying on the table that you could have gotten."
The reason is two-fold. First, the SBA is often very helpful to people who don't qualify for FEMA help, but may need thousands just to meet an insurance deductible. Second, if a victim is denied help by the SBA, FEMA will take a second look at the case, and may decide to offer money after all.