Those throughout the state who lost their home because of damages caused by the tropical storms could soon be living in a temporary one provided by the federal government.
On Sunday, the first 25 Temporary Housing Units supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived in Cobleskill at the warehouse facility on Aker Drive. Another 125 units are expected to arrive in shifts to Cobleskill, where they will be stored before being allocated to those in need of housing throughout the state, said FEMA Public Information Officer Adam DuBrowa.
“Right now, we are working with eligible applicants to get them into the housing units as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s been 30 days, so there is a sense of urgency about this. We aren’t going to sit on them.”
Those who are given a Temporary Housing Unit are allowed to stay in the 400-square-foot mobile home for up to 18 months.
According to DuBrowa, Cobleskill was chosen because the location was the best value for the government to get housing quickly to those in need.
He expects the first family in the area in need of a home to be placed in a unit within two weeks. Those with an uncertain living situation are eligible to apply if their property sustained more than $19,000 in damages and their house is no longer habitable.
FEMA officials are currently reviewing applications and performing inspections, so it is still unknown how many trailers will be distributed to families throughout the Capital Region.
So far, DuBrowa said, 32,680 households across the state have registered with the federal government for disaster aid. Because of this, more than $64 million has been approved in aid for New York. In the greater Capital Region, Schoharie County has the most requests at 1,572. More than $7 million in aid has been approved for the area. Schenectady has the second-largest number of requests so far at 1,209 and $2,880,469 in aid. Next is Albany with 694 registered and $1,581,663 in aid, and Rensselaer with 685 and $1,179,862 in aid. Last is Montgomery County with 483 registered and $1,447,499 granted in aid.
On Sunday, the state Office of Emergency Management and FEMA announced the two groups were extending the time period for municipalities to register for assistance. The date was extended to Oct. 28 for “state agencies, local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations” in counties with a disaster declaration. Residents still have until Oct. 31 to register.
In a news release, Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, thanked FEMA for their help in getting the units in place for allocation.
“These units will assist those hardest hit by the flooding, making certain they have living arrangements while they move forward with assessing and repairing the damage to their homes.”
DuBrowa said FEMA is hoping the majority of the units will be placed on people’s property after a safety inspection by disaster housing specialists. The mobile homes are provided rent-free, with residents responsible for all utilities.
For those who cannot return to their property, small housing communities may be set up.
“But the goal is to not have to do that,” said DuBrowa.
The trailers currently in Cobleskill have two bedrooms, but three-bedroom models are on the way.
Each unit is new and includes basic furnishings, like beds, kitchen appliances, a table and chairs, bedding and linens, cookware and some cleaning supplies.
DuBrowa stressed that each trailer is formaldehyde-free, which was a concern for residents living in housing units provided by the federal government after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Units are also inspected to meet state and federal codes, sanitized before families move in, and winterized to retain heat.
FEMA officials will continue to inspect the homes and maintain contact with their residents throughout the time they are living there to make sure everything is OK.
“The goal of the program is not to make the survivors better than they were before, only to help them get on their way as fast as possible,” said DuBrowa. “We can’t make them whole again but it does give them some peace of mind to know they will have a roof over their head.”
To register with FEMA call the helpline at 800-621-3362 or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
Local Recovery Centers:
Rotterdam Square Mall, 93 W. Campbell, Rotterdam.
Cobleskill Fire Dept., 610 E. Main St., Cobleskill
1000 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 24 Martin Road, Voorheesville (closes on Tuesday).
Centers are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except in Schoharie County where hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Rensselaer County recovery center in Troy closed Sunday, Oct. 1.