Hundreds of flooding victims seek help at FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Merced

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Friday, January 20, 2023
Hundreds seek help at FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Merced
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Hundreds waited at the Merced County Fairgrounds Thursday, hoping for help to piece their lives back together after destructive flooding last week.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds waited at the Merced County Fairgrounds Thursday, hoping for help to piece their lives back together after destructive flooding last week.

For many, it took hours to be registered with FEMA at the Disaster Recovery Center set up at the fairgrounds.

"We had individuals that have come into our Disaster Recovery Center yesterday morning. By yesterday afternoon, they had FEMA reps at their homes doing inspections," explained Sharon Wardale-Trejo with Merced County.

At the recovery center, victims of flood disasters are getting help starting their claims with FEMA.

Residents are then given access to over 30 state and county agencies offering assistance, including replacing birth certificates, finding help with mental health, and pausing utility bills.

RELATED: Planada residents get help with housing after losing almost everything in flooding

The resources offered at the center are critical as many victims are renters or uninsured.

There are also more than 30 translators available to help Spanish speakers through the process.

For the community of Planada, the income levels are very challenging and many residents of them are renters.

They are eligible for FEMA resources and FEMA funds even as renters because they have lost personal belongings.

FEMA representatives will assess each case. It's unclear how long financial assistance will take after.

Nonprofits are also on site, including the California Fire Foundation, which is offering immediate financial aid with $250 cash cards. One gift card is being given out per family.

"They can use it for a number of items," explained Rick Martinez, executive director of the California Fire Foundation. "What I think most of us lose sight of is that they have lost everything or their lives have been turned upside down so to have that money in hand that they can go down the street and buy whatever they need is important."

The organization has pledged a total of $1 million to California flood victims. It has already distributed as much as $70,000 dollars in Merced and will be there until Friday.

FEMA also has boots on the ground at the Planada Community Center, located at the heart of the destruction. They have been registering residents for resources from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

"When I can give somebody registered and know that we are going to get them assistance it's the best feeling ever," said Joe Basham with FEMA.

RELATED: How Merced County residents can apply for FEMA disaster assistance

The resources at the center are available for everyone, regardless of immigration status.

FEMA only requires that one person in the household, which can be an adult or child, have a social security number.

The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center is located inside the Yosemite Building at the Merced County Fairgrounds.

The center is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm.