The scene at a Catskills Disaster Recovery Center

Yesterday, the first of many Disaster Recovery Centers slated to open in New York State as a result of Hurricane Irene’s fury began operating at Belleyre Ski Center in Highmount, Ulster County. Today, a second Disaster Recovery Center opened in Prattsville today at the Town Hall at 49 Main Street. Our Shandaken correspondent Tom Rinaldo was at the Belleayre DRC when it opened yesterday and filed this report. -- Julia Reischel

HIGHMOUNT, NY -- The atmosphere yesterday at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) was cordial, but was strictly focused on working with those who showed up seeking help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had a team on hand ready to to meet with area victims of Irene. Cameras were not allowed and the FEMA representatives on site were unavailable for press queries, with all media questions routed to a designated FEMA office elsewhere. Those priorities were clear and certainly easy to respect.

By noon when the DRC opened, there were perhaps 15 people waiting to be helped, and a couple of dozen more showed up by 1:30pm. They sat in folding medal chairs in rows waiting to be called on, each person moving up one chair each time one was vacated by someone heading to their interview. Waits weren’t short for those not at the front of the line, but they weren’t intolerable either, and all who were there remained patient throughout.

The Disaster Recovery Center is a new addition to the ongoing shelter and relief efforts at Belleayre, now entering their second week. Unlike the emergency shelter, which is located further up the hill and has been open since last Saturday, the DRC is less focused on offering food and hot showers and more focused on connecting individuals and businesses access the assistance that may be available to them in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. As such, it is a joint effort of state and federal agencies.

Yesterday, Tom Green from the New York State Office of Children & Family Services observed that all seemed to be going smoothly. He was present at the Disaster Recovery Center to serve as a trouble-shooter and problem-solver, and he was pleased that his services weren't in much demand.

In addition to FEMA, staff from the Small Business Association was on hand at the DRC on Friday, along with workers from the Delaware County Departments of Children and Family Services. No one appeared to be there from the corresponding Ulster County Department of Children and Family Services. According to Green, however, they could be called upon if needed.

FEMA workers provided the entry point for the DRC, Green explained. They refer those seeking help to the other agencies present when appropriate. Though formal registration for FEMA help is done via phone and can be initiated without coming to the DRC, FEMA workers were there to help with registration and to answer questions.

Every single case is viewed as unique and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long will it take for financial relief to be received by someone who is eligible for it, officials said. In some instances it might take as little as two weeks for initial help to arrive, or it could take a number of weeks more. There simply are too many variables, some of them involving documentation, to be more precise than that.

From now on, for as long as needed, the Disaster Recovery Centers in Belleayre and Prattsville will be open from 8am to 8pm daily. Free shuttles are running throughout Ulster, Delaware and Greene counties for hurricane flooding victims and anyone else who needs a ride.

Disaster survivors apply for assistance on Wednesday at a FEMA mobile disaster recovery center in Prattsville, NY. Today, FEMA set up more permanent quarters in Prattsville: Photo via FEMA

More info about FEMA and state disaster aid:

From New York State


The State of New York requested an Expedited Major Declaration. This request was done because it was the quickest way to immediately try and get federal assistance for disaster survivors and local affected governments.

By FEMA granting this request, only a few counties (of the original 26 that Gov. Cuomo requested) were declared a disaster area. However, the State Office of Emergency Management is working to add additional counties to the declaration. This is done by doing Preliminary Damage Assessments. These assessments are done by local, state and federal officials actually touring the disaster areas (county-by- county) to calculate damage estimates.

Depending upon the actual damage estimates from each county, the state will be able to ask FEMA to add a county (or counties) onto the disaster declaration. State OEM is working quickly with county governments to schedule these assessments and get accurate estimates in to FEMA. All damages should be reported to the county emergency management office to ensure all damage areas are seen.

Types of assistance that are available through a declaration:

Counties declared for Individual Assistance, or IA, are the counties where grants will be made available to disaster survivors. It includes grants to homeowners to help repair or rebuild their damaged structure. IA grants are limited to about $30,000 per family and IA assistance is only available to help cover UNINSURED damage costs. So if a homeowner has insurance (homeowners/flood), they may not be eligible for IA. IA grants are also available to help cover such costs as funerals for disaster victims, medical costs, etc. These grants are not intended to make disaster survivors whole, but to help them on the road to recovery.

Families in these counties are also able to receive low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with repair costs.

Families may register for FEMA assistance by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 800-462-7585. Families can also apply online at, or on their smartphone at Disaster Recovery Centers will also be opened in affected counties to assist disaster survivors if they have questions about the registration process. The opening of these centers will be announced in the media.

PUBLIC ASSISTANCE: Counties declared for Public Assistance are eligible to receive grants to help cover such costs as debris removal, emergency protective measures, the repair of publicly-owned facilities such as schools, fire departments, city halls, etc. To begin this process, the State Office of Emergency Management will conduct Applicant Briefings in all the declared counties. This process will walk local government officials through how they apply for FEMA reimbursement and what costs they may be eligible to receive.

These local governments may have their eligible costs reimbursed at 75 percent. Grants are only
available to cover uninsured losses by governments. Traditionally, New York State and local
governments have split the 25 percent non-federal cost share.


State OEM Public Assistance: 518-292-2293

You can view the actual federal declaration at the above address. As counties are added to the declaration, it will be posted on FEMA's website.

FEMA info:

What Happens When You Call FEMA?

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Many residents may feel intimidated when calling the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to apply for disaster assistance. To ease the process,
below is a summary of the steps to follow when calling FEMA.

When registering for disaster assistance through 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA), the applicant will listen
to a greeting in English and Spanish. Choosing number two will switch the prompt to Spanish.
The system will ask if the caller wishes to apply for disaster assistance or check the status of their
application. Then it will request the caller to press the five digit number of the zip code of the
damaged property.

When a resident applies for disaster assistance, they should have the following available:

  • Social Security Number
  • Private insurance information, if available
  • Flood insurance information, if available
  • Address and zip code of the damaged property
  • Directions to the damaged home or property
  • Daytime telephone number

During this process, the applicant should write down and save the 9-digit FEMA registration number
which will be used throughout the process. Applicants should call to update their registration
information, including changes in address or phone number. This information helps FEMA to stay in
touch with applicants, disburse funds, and assist affected residents with various forms of assistance.
If you are uninsured or lack the appropriate insurance coverage, an inspector will call to schedule an
appointment to visit your property.

On August 27, 2011, President Obama granted a federal disaster declaration making individuals
and families affected by Hurricane Irene in Caguas, Canóvanas, Carolina, Cayey, Loíza, Luquillo,
and San Juan eligible for disaster assistance. This assistance may include temporary housing, home
repairs and other uninsured, disaster-related necessary expenses and serious needs.

And in Spanish:

Qué sucede cuando llama a FEMA?

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Muchos residentes podrían sentirse intimidados cuando llaman a la
Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA, por sus siglas en inglés) para solicitar
ayuda por desastre. Para facilitar el proceso, a continuación un resumen de los pasos a seguir cuando
se llama a FEMA.

Cuando solicita ayuda por desastre a través del 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA), el solicitante escuchará
un saludo en inglés y luego en español. Debe escoger el número dos si quiere cambiar al idioma
español. El sistema le sugerirá que si desea puede solicitar ayuda por desastre o verificar el estatus de
su solicitud a través del Internet. Luego le pedirá que presione los cinco dígitos del código postal de
la propiedad dañada.

Cuando un residente solicita ayuda por desastre, debe tener la siguiente información disponible:

  • Número de Seguro Social
  • Información de seguro privado, si aplica
  • Información de seguro de inundación, si aplica
  • Dirección y código postal de la propiedad dañada
  • Detalles de cómo llegar a la propiedad dañada
  • Número de teléfono para comunicarse durante horas del día

Durante el proceso, el solicitante debe escribir y guardar el número de solicitud de FEMA de nueve
dígitos, que utilizará más adelante. Los residentes deben llamar para actualizar la información en
la solicitud, esto incluye cambios en direcciones o números de teléfono. Esta información ayuda a
FEMA a mantener el contacto con los solicitantes, desembolsar los fondos y ofrecer otras ayudas a
los residentes afectados. Si usted no está asegurado o no tiene la cobertura de seguro apropiada, un
inspector lo llamará para concertar una cita y visitar su propiedad.

El 27 de agosto de 2011, el presidente Obama aprobó una declaración federal de desastre que hace
elegibles para ayuda por desastre a los individuos y familias afectados por el huracán Irene, en Caguas,
Canóvanas, Carolina, Cayey, Loíza, Luquillo y San Juan. La asistencia podría incluir vivienda temporal,
reparaciones a la vivienda, y otras necesidades serias y gastos relacionados con el desastre.