Volunteers assessing unmet needs from Irma

The Camden County Emergency Management Agency and The Salvation Army are teaming up this week to assess "unmet needs" in the Kingsland area following the effects of Hurricane Irma almost a year ago. 

If the community can provide evidence of those needs, Camden may qualify to receive additional federal assistance. 

According to Salvation Army director Charlene Sears, “unmet needs” encompasses anything from public infrastructure repairs to personal household expenses. 

Even those who have already accepted assistance in the form of a low-interest Small Business Administration loan can be suffering from unmet needs because they now have a loan payment in addition to their mortgage, she said. Others may have been unable to make repairs because of high insurance deductibles or exclusions.  

Three zip codes in Georgia — including 31548 in Kingsland — have been identified as having the highest impact from the storm based on applications filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the storm. 

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is offering a community development block grant for Georgia in the amount of $38 million and 80 percent of that money must be used in those three identified zip codes. The other two are in Brunswick and Albany. 

Sears said the remaining 20 percent can be used outside of those zip codes. 

To gather the needed documentation of unmet needs in the 31548 zip code, The Salvation Army organized a team of volunteers to man a phone bank at the emergency operations center this week. The center, open daily from noon to 6 p.m. opened on Monday and will close on Saturday, Aug. 11. It can be reached by calling (912) 576-3800. 

When the center is not receiving calls, its volunteers have been calling citizens in the 31548 zip code who filed FEMA applications last fall to see if they have any unmet needs. 

"This is a focused way to support that effort (to document unmet needs)," said Chuck White,  Camden County emergency management director. 

He said Camden County's governments, businesses and organizations did an excellent job in getting the word out about the county's emergency response center and the availability of FEMA applications. 

County grant writer Julie Haigler said the DCA has not announced exactly how the grant money will be distributed and whether a local match will be required. She said that match could be paid by the government when it deals with public infrastructure, but commissioners also could pass along that cost to citizens who wanted to participate in the program. 

White added that the phone bank has been using the opportunity to discuss with citizens their barriers to evacuation and whether they have special needs to consider in future storms. This will also help the community better prepare for the next major weather event, he said.

Tribune & Georgian

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