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Flurry of Activity at Recovery Center

FEMA, SBA process help at South County location.

Federal help for the victims of Hurricane Isabel officially moved into the Mount Vernon/Lee districts of Fairfax County this week. And they plan to stay "as long as the demand remains high."

That was the word from Douglas Welty, public affairs officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on the second day in its new location, the South County Government Center on Richmond Highway.

"We are scheduled to close on Friday, Oct. 10, but we'll stay open" if the demands remain as high as they have been in the first two days.

On the first day since moving from Lee Center in Alexandria, where it had been since Isabel, "We had 34 people. That's more than any one day at Lee Center," Welty said.

"We moved here to make it more convenient for the people of Fairfax County, and it looks like it's paying off," he said. Welty also attributed the heightened response to the fact that the Government Center offers "a wide variety of services, which has helped to increase our visibility."

In addition to FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the American Red Cross — which were all represented at the Lee Center Disaster Recovery Center — are at the Center. Joining them is the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). "This will aid people whose jobs have been impacted by the hurricane," Welty explained.

THE NEW CENTER opened at 10 a.m. on Monday and has been doing business from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. each day. Residents of affected jurisdictions can visit any center for assistance, according to FEMA. However, they should register with FEMA prior to visiting the center.

Individuals can register by calling the toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585. Phone lines are open from 7 a.m.-midnight, seven days a week. The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is Nov. 17, 2003.

In addition to FEMA, SBA, VEC and Red Cross, representatives of Fairfax County government, a hazard mitigation specialist, and voluntary organizations are available to provide information and assistance on disaster recovery programs, according to FEMA.

As of Oct. 6, there have been 62,178 applications for aid from throughout Virginia, FEMA verified. Of that total, Northern Virginia applications were Fairfax County, 694; Fairfax City, 18; Manassas, 4; Alexandria, 185; and Falls Church, 12.

Approvals as of Oct. 6 have totaled $23,900,000 statewide. Of that, housing accounts for $16,700,000 and others at $7,200,000.

Direct federal assistance has reached $23,500,000, and public assistance has accounted for $8,300,000.

Disaster Recovery Center visits stood at 7,021 by Monday at 16 centers. The 200 field inspectors had completed 21,800 inspections prior to the Fairfax County Center opening on Monday.

ASSISTANCE IS available in the following areas:

*Rental payments for temporary housing;

*Grants for home repairs;

*Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other disaster-related expenses;

*Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks;

*Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance;

*Loans up to $1.5 million for small businesses; and

*Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators.

Those who have suffered damages from Hurricane Isabel may also be eligible for aid or special consideration from the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration (DTA). This applies to real-estate tax adjustments, property value assessments, and car taxes and decal fees.

DTA is located at the County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 223, Fairfax. Phone: 703-222-8234. It is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.