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President approves disaster funds

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Clay County residents who incurred property damage during recent flooding can report that information to the Federal Emergency Management Agency after President George W. Bush ordered the release of federal disaster funds for Indiana.

In response to a request by Gov. Mitch Daniels, the President signed a major disaster declaration on Jan. 21. It designates 62 Indiana counties eligible for federal aid to help meet the recovery needs of stricken residents and business owners.

Clay County Interim Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband said that while it is important for residents to report damage details locally, any persons whose property sustained damage, including those who have already reported damage, must contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to qualify for assistance.

A toll-free application number and a web link are available to those who suffered property damage or loss in the declared counties affected by severe winter storms and flooding beginning Jan. 1. Residentsmay call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for those with hearing or speech impairments. The numbers are available 7 a.m.-7 p.m. every day until further notice. Individuals with Internet access may register online at www.fema.gov, where other details and information are posted.

The assistance, which will be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses.

Husband explained that coverage of lost wages for businesses forced to close due to flooding could also be included.

Federal funds will be provided for the state on a cost-shared basis for approved hazard mitigation projects. Damage surveys are continuing and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced federal disaster loans are available to homeowners, renters and businesses in the declared disaster counties, as well.

FEMA disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally provide compensation for the entire loss. If residents have insurance, the government may help pay for basic needs not covered under the insurance policy. Residents should contact their insurance agent first. Then they should apply with FEMA. Some disaster aid does not have to be paid back, while other forms of help may come in the form of Small Business Administration loans. The FEMA representative will explain when you call the hotline.

Between 15 and 20 local residents have submitted damage information, Husband said, cautioning citizens against assuming they won't qualify for damage relief.

"If you think you had damages, call the number and they'll come in and check."

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