FEMA opened a disaster recovery center in Boynton Beach on Wednesday for anyone in Palm Beach County who has questions or needs help applying for federal assistance after Hurricane Irma.
"A lot of people want one-on-one contact and communication in person when a disaster like Hurricane Irma strikes," said John Mills, a spokesperson for FEMA.
The center is located at the Carolyn Sims Center at 225 NW 12th Ave. in Boynton Beach and will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.
However, the center was so busy Wednesday, seeing more than 100 people that day, people were turned away starting around 5 p.m. because processing the line of people already there would last until after closing time at 6 p.m. Be advised to arrive early.
The center is open every day of the week, including weekends.
It's the first disaster recovery center to open in Palm Beach County and the second to open in the state following Hurricane Irma.
"Right now, we’re seeing a lot of people coming in," Mills said. "It’s clear there’s a need in the community, so we want to continue to hear from people."
FEMA has approved more than $163 million in grants for Hurricane Irma victims so far, Mills said. FEMA will fund temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses.
If you want to apply in person, you will need to bring information with you that documents the damage to your home or property, along with identification and any insurance information.
You can apply for assistance, even if you have insurance. After going through the application process, a FEMA agent will call you to schedule an inspection.
"I encourage people to file their insurance claims. They can register with FEMA whether they have insurance or not and whether you’re a homeowner or a renter," Mills said.
If possible, you are encouraged to register online first before coming to the center in person. You can also complete the process online instead of visiting the center.
"Everyone’s exact situation is unique," Mills said. "We work with everyone on a case-by-case basis."
People who don't live in Palm Beach County can go to the disaster recovery center in Boynton Beach.
FEMA is working to open more centers.
"We’re very rapidly working with the state and local communities to identify other locations for recovery centers in a variety of communities, especially the ones that were the hardest hit," Mills said.
Chris Stamatakis stopped by the disaster recovery center Wednesday because he's afraid the boat he lives on, which he inherited from his late father, is going to sink. He said the hull cracked during Hurricane Irma.
"The water is finding its way deeper into the hull," he said. "That’s the threat. That this thing will become like a sponge and just give out."
Venus Holloman also went to the center Wednesday to find out about available assistance because the apartment she rents in Boynton Beach appears to have water damage.
"I can lean into this wall and I can probably fall in," Holloman said.
Ray Harbour, of the Small Business Administration, also encourages people to apply for SBA loans. She said if someone is approved, they have the option to put the loan on hold for up to six months. If they aren't approved, they could be eligible for additional grant programs through FEMA.
To register, visit https://www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362
For more information, visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4337