JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
In response to Hurricane Matthew, an Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) was activated here Oct. 12 to assist base employees and their families returning from evacuation. The EFAC, with locations on the Air Base and the Naval Weapons Station, will remain open through Oct. 14.
The EFAC is a consolidated location where families can receive disaster relief contingency information and services.
“The EFAC promotes short- and long-term recovery and the return to a stable environment and mission ready status for (Department of Defense) personnel and their families following hazardous incidents,” said Elsa Summers, the EFAC coordinator. “We provide information and referral on issues such as available resources, financial assistance, legal services, spiritual counseling, psycho/social services, non-medical clinical counseling and referrals to on and off base health providers.”
These services, to include Finance, were provided 24 hours a day to customers until Oct. 14. Currently, financial services specific to the hurricane are available at the Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) and the Fleet and Family Services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 17.
“We were prepared to process 3,000 to 5,000 travel vouchers in one week. Normally, we serve 700 to 800 customers per month,” said Maj. Samual Shimp, 628th Comptroller Squadron (CPTS) commander. “It is a lot of process flow. We try to address their needs quickly so they are able to return to their jobs.
Our assistance is available to Airmen and Naval Support Activity Group members. We are taking in all customers and routing them in the right direction.”
The financial support mainly focuses on travel vouchers, so that members are reimbursed for expenses during the evacuation. Reimbursement covers miles traveled, lodging expenses and food. To process claims more quickly, instructions were provided to evacuees in advance, so they could begin completing the voucher before arriving at the EFAC.
“It is very helpful if you already have your voucher filled out as much as possible,” said Shimp. “Depending on how accurate and complete it is, we will send them straight to our auditors and make them a copy of the voucher so they can be on their way. If they are having a more difficult time, we send them to our customer service representative who will take the time to ensure the voucher is accurate. Evacuees also need to bring in any receipts over $75 and their direct deposit forms, if they’re a civilian. We will be open for vouchers at the EFAC until Tuesday. ”
For those needing to file vouchers beyond Oct. 18, customers can visit Finance in Building 322 for processing.
For dependents with deployed spouses or if they have children, members of the 628th CPTS will provide more detailed, one-on-one service in a private setting.
“With my husband deployed, it was challenging to do this by myself,” said Samantha Ringer, a military spouse. “Thanks to the help of his supervisor and one of the key spouses, I was able to find out about the EFAC, get a travel voucher and head over to the A&FRC. Once I got there, I was greeted kindly and the two individuals worked with me patiently to fix my travel voucher. If there ever is a reason the EFAC should be used again, I think they should continue doing it like this.”
The Chaplain Corps assisted those working around the clock at the EFAC by providing food and drinks. Additionally, they offered spiritual services to those working in and processing through the EFAC.
“I’d like to personally extend my thanks to the Chaplain Corps,” said Shimp. “Their presence and support really helps my Airmen keep moving forward. We’re also especially grateful to the AFRC for allowing us to work out of their offices while we are supporting all these families.”