FEMA opens office in Smithville, says $1 billion in assistance has been granted in Texas

Dozens have begun pouring into a recently opened FEMA center in Smithville to file paperwork.

SMITHVILLE, TEXAS - FEMA says it's granted $1 billion so far to Texans who survived Hurricane Harvey.

It's been almost a month since the storm first made landfall, starting what would be a week of destruction and historic flooding.

One of the areas that got hit hard was Smithville. FEMA has now set up shop there to help residents rebuild.

Nina Richards has lived in Smithville for 31 years.

"I heard water dripping and I thought, I was hoping that it wasn't happening, but it did and water was going on the carpet," she said.

Richards had never seen anything like Hurricane Harvey.

The water that came through her tin roof may be gone, but inspectors say it left behind something dangerous.

"It doesn't look so bad, its just that black mold," she added. "That's what scares me most with the black mold having asthma and allergies, so I'm gonna try and get it fixed."

We met Richards at an old county building on Fawcett Street that's suddenly getting a lot of foot traffic.

"We've been working really hard to get people what they need to get back on their feet," said Sandy Clawson Freeo. She works at FEMA's newly opened Smithville Disaster Recovery Center or DRC.

Several dozen people showed up today to file paperwork, raising the total number of Bastrop County residents getting aid to nearly 400.

"You cant get any assistance unless you apply," Clawson Freeo pointed out. "The DRC is probably one of the best places to come because you've got that one-on-one help."

But the grant money isn't the only fund available.

The Small Business Administration is also on hand here. The agency can actually loan homeowners up to $200,000 to repair or replace damage, seen or unseen, like at Richards' house.

"That hole may have sent water down in between the walls and then come November, December you find out your boiler is bad and it snowballs," added Cynthia Clawson of SBA. "It's better to have the money available and not need it than to need the money and not have it."

FEMA may foot the bill for Richards' hotel stay while the mold in her house is cleaned up.

In the meantime, she's counting her blessings; that Harvey spared most of her home, and that FEMA has set up shop right down the road.

"I just never ever expected them to be here for me and I'm impressed with what they've done and how quickly they've done it," Richards added.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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