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FEMA Closes Temporary Office In Lower Manhattan

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Lower Manhattan that administered aid following the World Trade Center attack is closing Monday.

The field office received nearly 200,000 applications from residents and businesses seeking help.



NY1’s Amanda Farinacci filed this report.

They're emptying out now, but for months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, these offices were filled with people seeking help paying bills, finding temporary housing and getting their apartments cleaned. Now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is getting ready to shut its doors at the end of the month.

“The registration deadline for people and families needing assistance from FEMA actually ended at the end of January of this year, and since then we've been helping people who applied towards the end of the period to process their applications, and the demand for that has now started to tail off,” said Brad Gair of FEMA’s Public Affairs Department.

Of the $$8.8 billion FEMA received immediately following the attacks, all but about $$1 billion has been handed out. Gair says what’s left will go to help repay the city and state's overtime and pension costs for the first responders.

There's an additional $$1 billion that will be used to cover insurance claims relating to the attacks as well.

“New York City now can take that $$1 billion and be able to provide insurance both for the contractors that worked at Ground Zero, and for the city to cover claims by city employees against New York,” said Gair.

The agency shuffled through nearly 200,000 applicants since 9/11, but not without controversy. The operation has come under scrutiny in recent months by local politicians who charge it hasn't done enough to help people in need.

“We did the best we could to try and figure out who was a victim of disaster versus who was suffering through the post-9/11 environment that the entire country was experiencing, and that's where I think we had the most difficult time,” said Gair.

“I think it's just frustrating because you always want to do more, but I think we've done everything we could to try to help in the recovery, and that part has been very positive,” said Joan McBarnette of FEMA Human Services.

Despite the criticism, FEMA's 100 employees say being a part of the unprecedented relief was more than rewarding.

“First it was difficult because you live in the area and you smell and you see the area, and then you come in and you meet other people who are still going through that same crisis, but after a while you draw strength from it,” said Kwong Hui, FEMA’s Manager of Disaster Assistance Services.

The office officially closes July 30, but a team of FEMA specialists will stay on to document the disaster and to gauge what has been learned in the event of a future tragedy.

- Amanda Farinacci

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