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Help available for Ivan recovery

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER Managing editor
Volunteer committees are popping up all over the county in an effort to do what the Federal Emergency Management Agency once promised to do for the citizens affected by Hurricane Ivan.
While FEMA's position on helping private landowners clean up has changed several times, one particular committee has been proactive in recruiting volunteers and training individuals in case management activities.
The Escambia County (Ala.) Long Term Recovery Committee (ECLTRC) is an umbrella agency that prepares to help citizens in the "completion of required paperwork in order to maximize recovery." ECLTRC comes under the umbrella of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County.
Ruth Harrell, who chairs the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, briefed the East Brewton City Council members Monday evening on what kind of recovery efforts have been made in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, and informed the council the group is still at work.
After individuals have received the maximum dollars from FEMA, which is $5,100 for home repair, the next step is to go through the small business administration and fill out one of the loan applications.
Harrell said that, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 60 percent of the people in the county who are 25 or older function at literacy levels that make it difficult for them to complete applications. Therefore, case agents are working with individuals to assist in the application process.
Currently, there are 180 families in the county whose homes have either been destroyed or rendered unlivable. Harrell said a majority of them are living in FEMA trailers.
So far, the agency has received $7,000 in donations. The money was used to hire a part time coordinator to help with case management needs. Twenty volunteers have also been trained in case management to help the remaining180 families.
So far, three offices have been established in Escambia County. Staffed volunteers placed at Hope Place will help take care of case management needs in Brewton and East Brewton. The Atmore Advance in Atmore and Methodist Church in Flomaton are the remaining locations.
The names of the 180 families have been released and they will be contacted and put into the database to get them help soon, Harrell said.
One of the things the organization is noticing and will be closely is the upcoming warming trend. As the weather becomes warmer, homes that received substantial water damage could possibly accumulate black mold.
Black mold has been targeted as causing asthma among children, and could possibly pose a public health concern.
More than 200 people countywide contacted FEMA regarding removal of debris along private property, Harrell said. In order to address the problem, FEMA had to deem the debris a threat to an individual family's health and safety.
An example Harrell was given by FEMA officials regarding a threat was that it would be almost impossible to get an ambulance to the front door.
The County Commission asked the Health Department to determine what families were threatened, Harrell said. After the evaluation, it turned out only four homes in the county qualified for the FEMA debris removal assistance.