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FEMA closes Hermine recovery centers but is still taking applications for relief

FEMA applicant service specialists Lori Ogas, standing, and Rosa Espinoza work at the Mike Fasano shelter on their last day of service Wednesday.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

FEMA applicant service specialists Lori Ogas, standing, and Rosa Espinoza work at the Mike Fasano shelter on their last day of service Wednesday.

HUDSON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is closing its Gulf Coast disaster recovery centers opened in the wake of Hurricane Hermine late this summer.

An agency spokesman said there is not enough traffic into the centers to justify the costs of keeping them open.

FEMA left the center established at the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter in Hudson on Wednesday. The remaining centers were set to close today.

Homeowners, renters and businesses with storm damage still have until Nov. 27 to apply for FEMA relief online or by phone.

Pasco County emergency services director Kevin Guthrie said he'd keep the Fasano shelter open until noon Saturday, staffed with county workers, even though FEMA packed up. Residents who need help with FEMA's online application process can visit the shelter at 11611 Denton Ave.

"It's a little frustrating that things are breaking down as fast as they are," Guthrie said, "but the message is Pasco County is here to help our residents."

Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties were not planning to keep their recovery centers open after FEMA leaves.

As of Tuesday night, more than 1,600 people in the Tampa Bay area applied for FEMA assistance, and the agency approved grant payouts of nearly $1.8 million to those residents, according to public affairs officer Jack Heesch.

The maximum grant FEMA can give is roughly $33,000, Heesch said, acknowledging that it may not be enough to fix everything.

"What FEMA's responsibility is to return you to a facility that is safe, habitable and secure," he said.

Heesch stressed the importance of filing an application even if there's no apparent damage. Things like mold may not appear until after the deadline, and by then it's too late.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

Help is still available

To register with FEMA, visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call, toll-free, 1-800-621-3362.

FEMA closes Hermine recovery centers but is still taking applications for relief 10/26/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 8:54pm]
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