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Federal officials open new center for flood response in Hazelwood

Kate Grumke
St. Louis Public Radio
LaWanda Felder and her daughter Aza Ali Felder wait in line to apply for assistance at a disaster recovery center in Hazelwood on Monday. Felder's basement filled with floodwater during record-breaking rainfall last month.

LaWanda Felder and more than a dozen other people were waiting in line Monday afternoon to try to get help from federal agencies.

Felder’s basement in Jennings filled with floodwater last month during record-breaking rainfall. She said clothes and supplies for her newborn daughter, Aza, were destroyed, leaving her to deal with both the formula shortage and a damaged home. Now she is staying with her mother.

Felder had renter’s insurance but says flooding wasn’t covered in her policy. She applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency but was initially denied. She came to Hazelwood on Monday afternoon to try again.

Federal officials with FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration opened a disaster recovery center at the Hazelwood Civic Center to reach people like Felder and offer one-on-one assistance.

The center will only be open until Friday. After that, FEMA says it expects to announce similar centers in other affected areas.

“What we'd like to do is to make sure that we are able to kind of carve this out and make sure that we are availing ourselves to each of the areas and making ourselves accessible to the people that have been impacted in those areas,” said La-Tanga Hopes, a spokesperson with the agency.

FEMA has already approved about $7 million in grants for people who are recovering from the flooding. There are also FEMA officials going door-to-door in affected areas to try to find more people who might need help.

Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
First responders rescue residents of the Reserve at Winding Creek apartment complex during flooding on July 26 in Hazelwood. FEMA opened a disaster recovery center at the Hazelwood Civic Center on Monday.

At the center, many people said they had had trouble getting assistance so far. LaConta Bates said she has effectively been homeless since the floods. She had been living in the Reserve at Winding Creek apartment complex in Hazelwood, where first responders had to rescue residents in boats when the water rose.

“Right now I'm staying in a hotel, so if I can get a hotel voucher or assistance with housing, that'll be great,” Bates said.

FEMA’s website has information for people who have been affected by flooding. Before visiting the center, the agency says, people should apply for assistance online.

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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