WILLIAMSTOWN -- More than $3 million has been granted to residents of The Spruces Mobile Home Park from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since Tropical Storm Irene hit in August 2011.
According to Town Manager Peter L. Fohlin's March 26 report, a total of about $3.6 million in Individual Assistance grants have been disbursed to Spruces residents, and of the 187 residents who applied for assistance, the majority, 104, received from $29,600 to the maximum award amount of $30,200. Seven residents received $10,291 to $19,918, 46 received $1,298 to $9,059, and 23 didn't receive any funds from FEMA, the report stated.
Susan Puddester, a case manager for Higher Ground, a nonprofit formed in the wake of the storm to assist displaced residents, said Monday that when residents receive the funds, they have been earmarked for things such as rental assistance, repairs and replacing items lost in the flood.
"As far as we know, the money has been showing up in people's bank accounts," she said.
Robin Lenz, coordinator for Higher Ground, said that with 153 homes in the park being condemned, the owners of those homes became eligible for the full amount of disaster relief from FEMA.
She said Fohlin worked hard with Susan Mills, voluntary agency liaison from FEMA, to advocate for those residents.
The Rev. Carrie Bail, president of Higher Ground, said with many of The Spruces residents receiving significant lump
"So far, we don't have a specific thing to ask them to save the money for, like disaster replacement housing. If we knew what we were going to do, we'd say to them to put aside some of their funds," she said.
Lenz said disaster relief housing is one of the options Higher Ground is currently researching as a possible way to help Spruces residents who lost their homes.
"Disaster relief housing would be for people at The Spruces who lost their homes in the flood, and FEMA says the project must be owner-occupied housing," she said.
Higher Ground doesn't know at this point what that housing would look like, if it would involve new construction or renovations to existing buildings, and whether it would be located in Williamstown or elsewhere, she said.
"Unlike the Affordable Housing Committee, which has to work within the town of Williamstown, we can work regionally," she said.