FAIRFIELD, Conn. – FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate toured Fairfield’s beach area and disaster recovery center Tuesday to survey the town's recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy.
The federal agency's representatives plan to continue to help Fairfield for a long time, Fugate told First Selectman Michael Tetreau, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and other officials.
“We’re not here for the short term,” Fugate said. “It does take several years to get everything back.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up a temporary assistance center at the Fairfield Senior Center until further notice. There residents can find out what programs are available and apply in person. Applications are also accepted at FEMA’s website.
Six homes in the Fairfield Beach area were washed into Long Island Sound and another six collapsed, Tetreau said. At least 700 Fairfield homes were damaged during the storm, he added.
It is up to local homeowners and municipalities to decide whether to rebuild in the area or move on, Fugate said. New construction in the area will have to meet stricter FEMA guidelines to prevent future disasters, he said. “We want to build resiliency,” Fugate said.
The agency offers grants for minor safety repairs, low-interest loans to repair up to $200,000 in damage to primary residences, and vouchers to pay for short-term housing for affected homeowners. Long-term restoration efforts would be the purview of state and local agencies and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fugate said. The Small Business Administration also provides loans for homeowners still paying off mortgages.
“FEMA doesn’t build homes,” Fugate said. “We can provide some assistance, but we don’t provide long-term housing solutions.”
Aid will also be available to municipalities to help pay for recovery efforts. Fairfield hopes to be reimbursed for some of the costs in overtime and materials incurred after the storm. It also has five major storm-related rebuilding projects planned: repairing Penfield Pavilion, the Harbor Road Bridge and coastal flood gates, repaving sections of Fairfield Beach Road and rebuilding the Sasco Beach refreshment stand.
FEMA’s main goal is to get things back to normal in the Fairfield Beach area and other parts of the country, Fugate said. That way state and local agencies can help homeowners.
“Ultimately, what you want to do is to get back to your normal station as quickly as possible,” Fugate said, “so that you’re using existing processes.”