WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Inevitably, some people affected by Tropical Storm Irene will not meet the eligibility requirements of government disaster aid programs or will have serious unmet needs even after receiving help from these programs.
For these individuals and families, assistance may come from committees made up of faith-based organizations, non-profit agencies and state and local agency personnel who work on situations that may range from home repair to counseling.
“The Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) in Massachusetts are focusing on individuals and families who have continuing unmet needs despite the overlapping systems delivering assistance to survivors of disasters,” said Chris Farrand, Massachusetts Voluntary Organization Active in Disasters chairperson. “The groups, working directly with individuals who have unmet serious needs, will work to find ways to deliver that help without duplicating what other agencies can or have provided.”
Groups are already in the beginning stages of forming in Berkshire County through the Inter-Faith Emergency Relief office at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown.
A primary focus of the LTRG is to address the remaining disaster-related needs of a family once they have received the maximum awards from federal and state disaster assistance programs. The maximum awards as established by law do not always cover the needs of a family that has lost everything.
Through cooperation and coordination, the voluntary agencies - including the faith community as a part of the LTRG - work to help the family. These partners are not limited by law to any monetary limits.
One of the key elements in the group’s work is knowledge of a survivors’ needs. Emergency management personnel and others working with individuals who have remaining unmet needs are urged to refer them to their local LTRG. “We can’t help people if we don’t know what their unmet needs are,” Farrand said.
Anyone with unmet needs beyond any federal disaster assistance may be referred to a LTRG by calling 2-1-1. Any organization or group wanting to lend support to an LRTG is asked to contact Chris Farrand at Chris.Farrand@USE.SalvationArmy.Org or by phone at (617) 304-1538.
LTRGs are composed of representatives from disaster response agencies and exist with all participating organizations as equal partners. Their mission and focus include:
- Strengthening area-wide disaster coordination by sharing information, simplifying client access and jointly resolving cases with unmet needs;
- Helping affected families develop a plan and receive adequate assistance for the recovery.
Services offered range from financial assistance, clean up, minor and major home repair to crisis and spiritual counseling.
“We have worked closely and with great success with these groups for the past 10 to 15 years,” explained Federal Coordinating Officer Mark Landry “Working together, we are seeking to offer a support system for affected people who do not have one.”
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.