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Asian-Americans fail to find FEMA funds

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Uncle Sam keeps knocking — but they aren’t answering.

Eight weeks after a freak storm struck, Bay Ridge’s tornado-ravaged Asian-American community still won’t apply for Uncle Sam’s handouts.

As of Monday, $400,000 in aid has flowed into Brooklyn — but that amount would be higher if some residents better understood the system, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration spokeswoman Sandra Martin.

“Bay Ridge is such a diverse neighborho­od,” said Martin. “A lot of residents in the Asian-American community may not have gotten the message or don’t understand that we offer language assistance.”

If the message was lost among Asian-Americans, a lot of others got it.

Just under 600 Brooklyn residents had already had their application approved with FEMA and 245 residents had visited the agency’s 59th Street field office. The grant amount that has already been approved is at $419,699.

Grants provided by the federal government do not need to be paid back.

But Martin said that Brooklyn would be get even more green if the community could mobilize Bay Ridge’s diverse and shy citizenry.

After the Aug. 8 storm, FEMA sent inspectors to the hardest-hit areas — a concentric circle around 67th Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues that is home to many Asian-American residents. Though hundreds of cars and roofs were destroyed, eight weeks later many have still not applied. Last week, The Brooklyn Paper knocked on doors and got a similar response as the feds.

“I am sorry, I don’t speak English,” said one woman on Bay Ridge Avenue in perfect English. “I can’t help you because you wouldn’t be able to understand me.”

Other homeowners either didn’t answer or gave similar non-responses.

But it isn’t a language barrier that got their tongues, but fear of the authorities, at least according to one neighbor.

“They speak perfect English, but they are not going to talk to anyone,” said one neighbor, who requested anonymity, who lives across the street from the damaged homes on 69th Street. “A lot of those homes are illegally converted and have 10 or 15 different people living there.”

But residents should not let their immigration status get in the way of applying for aid, said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Barbara Lynch. “If an illegal immigrant who applies for assistance has a young child who was born here, then that child is eligible for help,” said Lynch.

Register by Oct. 30. at FEMA’s Bay Ridge center (552 59th Street, at Sixth Avenue) or by calling (800) 621-FEMA.

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Reader Feedback

Iggy Blume says:
This is absolutely the reason we need a compassionate yet fair immigration policy that tracks those who are now here illegally, that makes sure they do not live in situations like these subdivided apartments, that they are getting paid a just wage for their work and that they learn English so they can participate fully in the American economy.

Oct. 7, 2007, 7:15 pm

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