NORWALK, Conn. – Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency began assisting Norwalk residents Thursday with Hurricane Sandy-related aid applications in a makeshift office in City Hall.
After only a couple of hours Thursday, representatives had already assisted residents from throughout the city, said Debi Walgamott, applicant services program lead for FEMA’s Norwalk office. Some of the hardest hit areas were in Rowayton and the Harborview section. Residents of those areas had begun to trickle in, too, Walgamott said.
“We’re here to explain the programs that are available to them and the process,” she said. “Hopefully, we can clarify any questions they have.”
The temporary Norwalk office will continue operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday before moving back to Fairfield on Monday, according to Walgamott. During two-and-a-half days in Fairfield last week, FEMA representatives saw 225 families, and additional families are expected next week.
“We saw a tremendous number of people in Fairfield,” Walgamott said.
More than 5,200 families in Fairfield County have registered for assistance, and $6 million has already been earmarked to aid them, according to Rita Egan, FEMA public information officer in Connecticut.
“The bulk of the money is going toward individual housing repairs and rental assistance,” Egan said.
In addition to FEMA representatives, staffers from the Small Business Administration are on hand to help with long-term, low-interest loans. Typically, the SBA works with businesses, but during natural disasters, the group also works with homeowners and renters.
Part of the job is to ensure that all residents are treated with compassion and fairness, said Walgamott, who has worked for FEMA for eight years and assisted people after 15 major natural disasters.
“A lot of these people have lost everything,” she said. “There’s a system in place to help them, and we want to make sure they all receive the same level of service.”