EL PASO COUNTY, Colo - The Federal Emergency Management Agency's strategy in trying to reach as many flood victims as possible includes setting up in a different location every week, instead of remaining in one location.
The strategy has been questioned by many victims of September's flash floods. In the past two weeks, FEMA has opened a disaster recovery center in Black Forest and Security, respectively, miles away from where most flood victims live and from where most damage occurred.
Susan Solomon, a FEMA spokeswoman, explained why the agency favors a mobile strategy.
"It's within driving distance of people's homes or businesses that had damage," she said. "We consulted with local officials who encouraged us to put centers in particular locations."
Solomon said FEMA prefers locations that offer additional resources for processing damage claims, presumably so that the agency doesn't have to rely solely on its mobile office.
"We often use government buildings where we don't have to pay additional money for rent," she said.
The center will remain at the Security Fire Department through Saturday. Hours are from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Michael Lowery's home near Cheyenne Creek sustained nearly $30,000 in foundation damage from the flood, he said. Whereas the center was at first conveniently in his neighborhood, he now has to drive 7 miles to the Security center, yet he said personal service is more important to him than convenience.
"It's a little farther to drive but it's better to get face-to-face with (FEMA)," he said. "I just remember in years past, dealing with these government agencies. You would have to go through the state or go to Washington. It's just very handy to have people here that you can see face-to-face."
Solomon said 1,170 people in El Paso County have registered for flood assistance so far. She said $50.8 million in FEMA grants and $57.4 million in SBA loans have been approved.
To register in advance to file a claim, call 800-621-3362. The online address is http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov
FEMA has extended the deadline for filing claims and applying for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration through Nov. 30. For a web-enabled smartphone, tablet or similar device, the address is http://m.fema.gov