By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
PROVIDENCE – As Rhode Island slowly works to return to normal after the effects of Hurricane Sandy, residents can seek crisis counseling, help with unemployment benefits and register to volunteer for relief efforts.
“Hurricanes can threaten an individual’s sense of control and feelings of safety, and they can affect many aspects of our lives. In addition to property damage and other losses, events like Hurricane Sandy can result in significant emotional distress,” said a release from the R.I. Emergency Management Agency.
Residents who feel as though they need counseling to deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy should call the toll-free Disaster Distress Helpline at (800) 985-5990. The helpline, which connects callers to trained professionals from the closest crisis counseling centers in a nationwide network, is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association.
In light of the aftermath of the storm, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Director of Labor and Training Charles J. Fogarty are waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance for some workers let go due to the effects of the storm.
Non-seasonal employers that were forced to lay off workers temporarily as a result of storm-related damage were urged to apply for a waiver with the R.I. Department of Labor and Training. To be deemed eligible for the benefit relief and the waiting period waiver, employers must submit an application to the DLT.
Since the start of Hurricane Sandy, National Grid has restored power to nearly 100,000 Rhode Islanders, but 24,192 still remain in the dark, as of 11 a.m., Thursday. The power utility said it is working to complete restoration by Friday, with possible isolated customers regaining power on Saturday. In Bristol County, Mass., only 1,247 customers were without power as of 11 a.m.
Only the Exeter-West Greenwich and South Kingstown public school systems, as well as a handful of the state’s private and religious schools, were closed on Thursday, according to the list of closures and delays on Turnto10.com. All of Rhode Island’s colleges were open on Thursday.
Westerly, which is one of the towns hit hardest during Sandy, saw severe damage in the Misquamicut area, losing more than 50 feet of coastline. There were also reports of looting on Tuesday. Many cottages at Roy Carpenter’s Beach were either washed away or suffered severe damage during the storm.
Due to Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the town, officials recommended residents celebrate Halloween on Saturday, Nov. 3 instead of Wednesday evening. “With the power outages and downed trees and power lines it is unsafe for children to trick-or-treat,” said a release from the town.
Currently, the Westerly Senior Center shelter remains open for residents in need of help. According to RIEMA, the American Red Cross monitors the needs of residents and will reopen other shelters if necessary.
The Joint Information Center was disbanded on Thursday, RIEMA spokesperson Annemarie Beardsworth announced. All storm-related information should be directed to RIEMA.
As RIEMA partners with United Way of Rhode Island’s 2-1-1 hotline, Rhode Islanders whose brushes with Sandy resulted in property or business damage can report their situations by calling 2-1-1. Filing reports via the hotline helps the state seek disaster assistance for individuals, though filing a report does not guarantee federal or state assistance.