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FEMA opens Disaster Recovery Centers in Sarasota and other counties impacted by Hurricane Ian

Banner that reads 'FEMA-State Disaster Recovery Center' strung up off an outdoor pillar
Cathy Carter
WUSF Public Media
FEMA and its state partners are now operating multiple Disaster Recovery Centers across the state.

Storm survivors can get help applying for federal assistance to cover temporary lodging expenses, basic home repairs and other disaster-related needs.

Widespread flooding caused by rain from Hurricane Ian turned roads in North Port into canals, trapped people in their homes, and even shut down Interstate 75 in both directions for hours.

Now, residents can apply for help at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center located at the Shannon Staub Libraryin the city of North Port in Sarasota County.

Jason Bartolone is the Communications Manager for the city. He says flooding damage from Hurricane Ian was historic.

"We know there are areas of the city that have flooded before, but there was nothing to this level or this magnitude, and that just speaks to the magnitude of the storm and the impacts,” he said.

“We're very hopeful for the future obviously and being able to rebuild and recover from this. But we know that there's a lot of people hurting out there and so we're doing everything we can to help them."

Florida moblie licensing vehicle
Sarasota County Government
Multiple state agencies are also at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers including mobile licensing for individuals who lost their Florida ID due to Hurricane Ian.

FEMA says it has so far approved more than $190 million in federal assistance for communities impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Jamie Carson, Communications Director for Sarasota County government, said applications can also be submitted online, but sometimes having a one-on-one conversation can be more reassuring.

"It's a release to sit down and to share what you've been through,” she said.

“For someone to listen and understand your situation and to say, 'you know what, these are the resources that best meet your needs. Now let's go through the process of getting the applications through.' There are all these phone numbers you can call, but sometimes it's just nice to have a conversation."

RELATED: How Florida businesses and homeowners can get assistance

Storm survivors can get help applying for federal assistance to cover temporary lodging expenses, basic home repairs and other disaster-related needs.

Several insurance companies are on site as well so policyholders can meet directly with their representatives to file claims. Residents can also meet with mental health professionals for free counseling.

Picture of blonde woman in burgandy shirt standing next to rack of library books.
Cathy Carter
Sarasota County Government is reminding people that most public libraries are open again following Hurricane Ian

The Disaster Recovery Center at the Shannon Staub Library in North Port is open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Additionally, Sarasota County Government is reminding people that most public libraries are now open and can provide other resources and comfort.

“People have been so grateful to be able to get back into the libraries for some very practical reasons including to cool off if they don't have air conditioning, to charge their devices and to connect via our internet and our Wi-Fi that is totally free to the public,” said Renee Di Pilato, Director of Library Services for Sarasota County.

“I think it's been really important for people to be able to use our computers or even their own devices again and just check in with friends and family to let them know they're okay. I think especially now, people are looking to reconnect within their communities.”

In addition to the Sarasota location, FEMA has opened a Disaster Recovery Center in Polk County at the W.H. Stuart Center in Bartow, the Highlands County Extension Office in Sebring, and the Wauchula Civic Center in Hardee County.

The centers are open seven days a week.

WMFE reporter Joe Byrnes contributed to this report.

Updated: October 17, 2022 at 9:01 AM EDT
This story has been updated to include Disaster Recovery Centers open in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.
As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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