ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York State and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials are continuing to reach out to flood victims with special needs due to the severe storms and flooding in New York in late June, and they are achieving some gratifying results.
FEMA's Special Needs Unit, in concert with the New York State Human Services Task Force (HSTF), works with flood victims who may need extra help, especially older adults and people with disabilities. The New York State Human Services Task Force consists of more than a dozen state agencies and volunteer organizations, led by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
"The HSTF has partnered with FEMA and the local county Commissioners of Social Services to provide assistance to flood victims," stated John Paolucci, Chairman of the HSTF. "FEMA refers any special and unmet needs cases to the HSTF and we continue to work together with them and the counties to try and provide assistance, when possible. Governor Pataki continues to make helping flood victims the highest priority for the HSTF member agencies."
A caseworker is assigned to each applicant and contact is usually made by telephone. Using a special needs assessment that categorizes a flood victim's issues according to housing, medical needs, food, and assistance with paperwork, the caseworker makes referrals to a network of voluntary agencies, faith-based and community organizations.
"Through the course of working with flood victims on their special needs, FEMA and the State of New York have received countless numbers of compliments and heartfelt thank yous for the help we have provided," said FEMA Special Needs Case Manager, Kathy Slattery.
Slattery continued, "One of our applicants wrote, ?I am taking this opportunity to commend and thank my FEMA caseworker in the Special Needs Unit. As I told her, I don't remember how or when she entered my post-flood life, but I am so grateful that she did. She has gone out of her way to listen to and guide me through this ordeal."
Slattery said, "After helping our applicants through the process, many of them ask me how they can thank us and what can they do for us. I just tell them we're happy to know that we've helped them meet their needs. We are so pleased to know that they now have hope and a plan for recovery. That's really our purpose. It's not about us, it's always about them, and that's what makes this work so gratifying."
Applicants are referred to the Special Needs Unit from many sources, including housing inspectors, outreach staff, and the offices of elected officials.
The staff also recently completed a call out program to special needs applicants to make them aware of crisis counseling services that are available to flood victims in Broome, Chenango , Delaware , Otsego and Tioga counties.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.