Feds help Avant residents fill out forms, plan their recovery

Robert Smith
U.S. government representatives operated a Disaster Recovery Center at Avant from Friday through Monday to help local residents fill out government paperwork and plan their recoveries from heavy spring flooding. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

AVANT — It has been about six weeks since nine and a half inches of rain caused flooding from Bird Creek and Tucker Creek that devastated Avant.

The community had an estimated population of 304 people in 2017, and nearly 250 people needed flood-related assistance, according to documentation developed by residents involved in directing aid to their neighbors. Numerous Avant residents still turn to a post-flood community nutrition operation at the local public school for meals.

About 20 residents listened intently last Friday night as Susheel Kumar, a public information officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration, talked to them about how to apply for government aid and how to avoid being scammed by con artists looking for ways to separate them from the aid money they do receive.

Kumar was one of a team of U.S. government representatives who visited Avant from Friday through Monday to open and operate a Disaster Recovery Center. They operated the recovery center from large vehicles parked in front of Avant City Hall.

Scott Sanders, a media relations specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the mobile center at Avant was to be staffed by an Individual Assistance specialist, whose job was to help area residents with questions about applications for disaster assistance. The center was also to be staffed by the Small Business Administration and possibly by the Mitigation Division, he said.

Nona Roach, an Avant community leader who has not been to work at her accounting business since the flood came, urged her fellow residents not to let their circumstances get the better of them.

“The biggest thing to remember is that ‘no’ is not no,” Roach said. Her point was that Avant residents should not give up on getting recovery aid just because of a rejection letter from a government agency. They should keep pushing.

Kumar agreed with her.

“That’s what you folks need right now is a lot of options and a lot of hope,” he said.