Relief center stays busy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 11, 2008

NATCHEZ — On Friday morning, those seeking federal assistance from Hurricane Gustav were still making their way to FEMA’s disaster relief center.

The declaration making the county’s residents eligible for federal assistance came on Oct. 3, and Tuesday was the first day the center was open.

FEMA’s public information officer Jody Correro said, since the center opened, the crowds have been steady.

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“We’re staying busy,” Correro said.

On Friday, the center wasn’t as packed as its opening day, but did have a steady stream of applicants coming through the door.

Layne Segda, originally in charge of the center, said he expected a sharp decline after the center had been open a day or two — but that hasn’t happened.

The center has seen more applicants since opening, Correro said.

On Tuesday, the center registered approximately 50 new applicants, on Thursday that number jumped to approximately 114.

Jeannie Mooney, another of FEMA’s information officers, said she could only attribute the higher numbers to an increased awareness of the site’s opening.

“Once the word is out, more people know where to go for assistance,” she said.

Since opening, the center has registered more than 240 new applicants.

And since eligibility was extended to the county more than 1,643 have applied to receive benefits online, by phone or in the disaster center.

But some of those benefits have already started making their way to county residents.

Correro said approximately $19,299 has been granted in housing assistance and approximately $3,292 has been granted in other needs assistance.

To process those claims more than 40 FEMA inspectors have been sent across the state to evaluate home and property damage as a result of the storm.

Correro said with a steady stream of applicants each day the center has no plans to close anytime soon.

“We’ll stay here until we’re finished taking care of everyone’s needs,” he said.