HELENA, Mont. -- President Obama amended Montana's disaster declaration on July 26 to include assistance directly to individuals for housing and other needs. Shortly after the declaration, FEMA had community relations specialists in Roundup talking directly to residents about assistance available.
The FEMA specialists walk door-to-door and business-to-business in teams to reach as many folks affected by flooding as possible to help them register for assistance and explain FEMA programs. The community relations specialists rely on information from local emergency managers to locate those with the most pressing needs.
"Some people prefer to talk to someone face-to-face, and our door-to-door outreach fills that need for direct contact." Helena-based FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Doug Mayne said.
"So many people who were affected by flooding don't know there is help available," said Tammy Novakovich, one the community relations specialists on the ground in Montana. "Sometimes we reach someone who doesn't even know about FEMA. When we arrive and let them know that help is available it is such a relief."
The community relations specialists who started in Roundup are now heading in all directions to make direct contact with affected individuals in all 16 designated counties including those in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Hill, Missoula, and Cascade. In addition they are supporting the tribes on three reservations as directed by the tribe's leadership. As FEMA community relations specialists visit homes, schools, businesses and civic groups, they are clearly recognized by their blue FEMA shirts, have identification badges, and carry disaster assistance information with the phone number and website by which they can register. They will not ask for any personal information.
To date community relations specialists have distributed FEMA disaster assistance information to 28 local officials, 210 businesses, 34 churches, three chambers of commerce, seven post offices, two school districts, eight community based organizations and 387 residences.
Community relations specialists have spoken with 242 residents; 128 reported damage, 54 are registered with FEMA and 74 were encouraged to register.
Community relations specialists:
- partnered with Small Business Administration and FEMA mitigation specialists to staff a booth at the Northeast Montana Fair in Glasgow;
- conducted outreach at a local farmer's market in Custer County; and
- have assisted the Disaster Recovery Centers including those currently in Joliet, Crow Agency, Lewistown and Roundup.
Across central Montana and from Missoula to Big Horn counties, residents in 16 counties and three reservations who were hit by flooding are now eligible for disaster assistance. The Presidential declaration includes: Big Horn, Blackfeet Reservation, Carbon, Cascade, Crow Reservation, Custer, Fergus, Fort Belknap Reservation, Garfield, Hill, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Musselshell, Petroleum, Sweet Grass, Valley and Yellowstone.
Many locations in Montana are experiencing rapid changes in weather, from 100 degrees to heavy rain and dropping evening temperatures. "Our team shows tremendous commitment to Montanans who are trying to rebuild from the flooding," Mayne said. "Community outreach is a crucial part of our mission, and these professionals have really made a difference."
The FEMA teams continue to encourage those who have sustained damages and losses as a result of the flooding to register as soon as possible by calling FEMA's toll-free Help Line at 1-800-621- 3362 to speak to a representative and supply some basic information.