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Columbia County Observer

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FEMA - SBA - Columbia County: On the ground; helping people; communicating through satellite 

The FEMA communications van keeps the Disaster Recovery Center in touch with the world of FEMA by satellite. FEMA representative Mary Margret Walker is standing by the door.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – FEMA and the SBA have their boots on the ground in Columbia County. Anyone, who lives in any of the counties declared disaster areas and as a result of Tropical Storm Debby has experienced property damage or needs other needs assistance, can receive help from FEMA and the SBA. You must register online or call the 800 number to get the ball rolling. It is as simple as that. Not sure how to do it? Visit FEMA – SBA Disaster Recovery Center at the Westfield Shopping Plaza in Lake City.

Sky map to FEMA - SBA + Click here

Since the declaration of emergency last week, 6575 people statewide have contacted FEMA on the phone or net.

During the same time, $7.7 million has been approved. In order to have the money approved, someone had to actually see the loss with their eyes. You have to register with FEMA to be eligible to receive aid. You have to register to have a FEMA representative visit your property.

Included in the $7.7 million is .8 million for serious disaster needs, called other needs assistance (ONA), which includes rent and disaster related needs, such as medical, funeral and transportation expenses, temporary housing, repair assistance and even money to help you replace a vehicle.

FEMA's Mary Margret Walker, inside the communications van, goes over the FEMA statistics and explains the DRC's role.

1239 people have been through the 6 FEMA disaster recovery centers (DRC) in Florida.

316 people have been through the DRC in Lake City and 652 people from Columbia County have registered with FEMA. On Tuesday, 50 people came through the DRC in the County.

The DRC is set up to provide ongoing assistance. This means once a person has registered they can come into the DRC and continue to have their questions answered.

Once a person has registered and is in the system, their records will be available in any DRC.

After you register and supply the required information, you will get a letter from FEMA, which is known as the issues letter. The issues letter tells you if you have been approved and also directs you to supply any information which is shown to be incorrect or has been left out, such as phone numbers and those kinds of things.

FEMA representative Mary Margret Walker: "Sometimes people get really stressed out when they get the letter. They see that they have left out some information and they think they're being rejected. They should stay calm. Most often they need to supply some additional information."

How long does it take to get one's money approved?

Ms. Walker: "It's difficult to give an exact time. Look at it this way. Since the emergency declaration on July 3rd, 6575 people have registered in the system. We have approved $7.7 million."

Ms. Walker continued, "The DRC will be open as long as people are coming in. As long as people need service, we'll be here." 

The SBA - The Small Business Administration

An SBA representative helps a young couple cope with the recovery.

At the DRC, besides registering, a person can come in and find out about grants. They can speak to the SBA, which covers not only small business loans, but also homeowner loans and economic injury disaster loans.

Application filing deadlines for the SBA are for Physical Damage, September 4, 2012; Economic Injury, April 3, 2013.

To receive a loan from the SBA the applicant must be able to meet the credit requirement of the SBA and be able to show that they do not have sufficient funds or other resources, or the ability to borrow from non-government sources, to provide for their own disaster recovery.

More information available from the SBA:
• Call the SBA's Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955
•  e mail:
• apply (secure site) for a loan online:
More information from FEMA

Communications Van

The communications van, which came down from Atlanta, hooks the disaster center into the world of FEMA via a satellite connection.

FEMA is also on the street with community outreach teams knocking on doors, speaking with people, and letting them know FEMA is here.


The folks from FEMA – SBA are here to help you. The relief you receive is being paid for by your neighbors, working families across America. Play it straight.

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