FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at Washington Square Mall | Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is encouraging West Siders whose homes were damaged by the July 2 flooding to apply for grants to get their furnaces repaired or replaced. 

This comes as the disaster relief agency continues to try to reach out to survivors ahead of the Oct. 16 deadline. FEMA is concerned that the winter heating is not at the top of their minds during the warm weather, and urges them to try to get the funds while they can. The amount they can get varies, but they could potentially get the entire cost covered.

 This comes as FEMA is winding down the Disaster Recovery Centers, where residents affected by flood can get in-person help with their applications. Effective Oct. 1, none of them are open Sunday. The North Austin center at Washington Square Mall, 4851 W. North Ave., and Garfield Community Service Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave., are now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The South Austin center at the Columbus Park Fieldhouse, 500 S. Central Ave., is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. 

Meanwhile, aid to the West Side continues to flow. FEMA spokesperson Leyla Gulen said that, as of Sept. 29, applicants in the West Side wards received more than $44.5 million in disaster relief funding – nearly $6.7 million more than on Sept. 11, the last time Austin Weekly News requested those numbers. More than $21.8 million of that went to the 37th Ward, which includes most of Austin east of Central Avenue, and parts of West Humboldt Park. The 29th Ward, which includes the portions of Austin west of Central Avenue and parts of South Austin further east, got more than $8.4 million. The 28th Ward, which includes a portion of South Austin, all of West Garfield Park and half of East Garfield Park, got more than $8.8 million, while the 24th Ward, which includes a small sliver of Austin and most of North Lawndale, received more than $5.5 million.

In an interview two weeks ago, David Cherry, co-head of the Leaders Network coalition, said he was concerned that FEMA grants weren’t enough to cover the repair and replacement for furnaces – and that some people are still waiting for money.

“Right now, the weather is fine, but we’ve been facing this issue since the very beginning,” he said. “The longer the help is delayed, the closer we get to colder weather, and these furnaces are not replaced, there’s a lot of people who are looking at the very cold fall and the cold winter.”

FEMA sent out a statement a day later encouraging flood victims to apply for FEMA aid to get those furnaces replaced.

The amount of time it takes for the applicants to get aid varies, Gulen said, but “it is not unlikely” that applicants who signed up for direct deposit can get it “within 3-4 days” after the acceptance.

If the FEMA assistance isn’t enough, she added, FEMA “encourages survivors to connect with local, county, city, and state officials to see if additional resources are available to assist with repairing or replacing a furnace.”

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...