PURVIS, Miss. – On the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, a table was set up this week in the lobby of the R.C. Cook Student Union. Behind it sat folks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, its state counterpart MEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and a FEMA Corps young adult. They were there to bring the message to students and faculty about the help available to those affected by the recent tornadoes and flooding.
The Disaster Information Station came to be at the urging of USM alumni Governor Phil Bryant (class of ’77) and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny L. Dupree (class of ’96). The governor asked FEMA and MEMA to reach out to the students and staff at the school who might not have the time or means to seek assistance otherwise.
“We were so excited to be able to bring our partners on campus to make sure the entire USM family is being taken care of,” said MEMA Director Robert Latham. “The university has been very proactive from the start and we appreciate its efforts.”
“We will continue to staff the station as long as there is a need,” he said.
“The Disaster Information Station on the USM campus underscores FEMA’s dedication to the whole-community nature of our mission,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Terry Quarles. “We want to make sure all those affected by the storms get the help they deserve.”
The station opened for business on Monday morning, Feb. 26 and is currently set to remain open through Friday, March 1. About 25 students and staff showed up on that first day and learned how to register for assistance and what FEMA aid might be available.
Many of these students get around by bicycle. Some lost their cars, or their living quarters were hit, or their personal belongings were damaged or destroyed.
“Most of these young people could not get to a regular FEMA Disaster Recovery Center,” Quarles said, “So we brought a little version of a DRC to them.”
FEMA Corps member Reilly Bean, who had been deployed to Nassau County in New York for Hurricane Sandy before coming south, was able to give advice and guidance to some of his Generation-Y contemporaries.
Not all the visitors on Monday were looking for help. Some were offering it, looking for ways to pitch in. The people manning the station were able to direct them to volunteer organizations in Hattiesburg.
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.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.