Downers Grove business owner Jan Peterson estimates her day care facility, Little People Learning Center, sustained as much as $200,000 damage during last month's flooding.
She knew she needed help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Association, but struggled to connect online in the days since DuPage and other area counties were declared disaster areas.
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"I would get online to register and start the process and the site would crash," Peterson said. "It was frustrating, but there were a lot of other people just inundating the system. So it's nice to be able to do it in person."
Peterson was one of dozens of home and business owners who visited FEMA'S Disaster Recovery Center on Thursday during its first day of operation at the Lisle Police Department.
Once inside, those affected by last month's floods can get help to apply for federal assistance in the form of FEMA grants and low-interest loans to cover uninsured costs ranging from repairs to alternative housing.
"We want to talk to people who are insured and those who aren't because we've got programs to fill in some of the holes of insurance," FEMA spokesman Mike McCormick said. "We also want people to repair their homes and keep their receipts. We definitely don't want people waiting to make their homes livable again. Keep your receipts and take pictures."
The relief facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily until further notice at the police department, 5040 Lincoln Ave.
"Some questions are best dealt with face to face, so we'll be here as long as we're needed," McCormick said. "When people stop coming, we pack up and go home. As long as the local officials believe we're serving a need here, then we'll be here."
Residents also can visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to apply for assistance. The toll-free telephone number will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily until further notice.
The assistance comes after about a month of collaboration between DuPage County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and FEMA to collect flood damage reports from residents and businesses.
The information was then forwarded to the federal government, resulting in Friday's presidential declaration.