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Bill Edwards, Rick Baker to help open FEMA center

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg entrepreneur Bill Edwards, in association with the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, state Rep. Wengay Newton and mayoral candidate Rick Baker, will open a FEMA Disaster Recovery Registration Center Wednesday night.

The center is slated to be open 6-9 p.m. and is located at 6090 Central Ave.

The facility will be equipped with power, computers with internet access for FEMA registration and some phone charging stations, all crucial amenities for the more than 90,000 residents in St. Petersburg still without electricity days after Hurricane Irma teared through the region.

“Rick Baker came to me with a need,” Edwards said in a statement. “We were spared the worst of Irma, but people in St. Petersburg are still hurting and in need of assistance. Without power or internet, it’s impossible.

“I am happy to open my doors to give people the chance to apply for aid. The sooner people get help, the sooner they can get their lives back to normal, and that’s what we are all hoping for.”

Registration is estimated to take approximately 20 minutes for those who attend the event. Residents are being told that to complete the FEMA application, they’ll need to be provide lots of financial and contact information, in addition to being able to identify the type of insurance coverage they have.

If it’s determined that they are eligible for assistance and would like those funds to be directly transferred to their personal bank account, they need to have that information available as well.

Heavy’s Food Truck will also be on site providing free hot meals while supplies last.

The announcement comes while there has been a pause in the St. Petersburg mayoral campaign over the last week. That’s when preparations began to be made in St. Petersburg for Irma’s arrival.

Baker faces incumbent Rick Kriseman on Nov. 7. The two finished in a near tie two weeks ago in the primary race, with both getting 48 percent of the vote (Kriseman received 69 more votes than Baker).

Kriseman has been all over the city and in the media as he has led the city through the storm crisis. The biggest issue remains the the number of residents without power, which includes Kriseman. He downplayed any mention of the campaign at a press conference on Tuesday, saying that all of his energies are devoting to taking care of the citizenry in St. Pete.

Baker has worked for Edwards at the Edwards Group for the past five years. Newton, a Democrat, crossed party lines to endorse Baker in the (officially) non-partisan race.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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