FEMA has money now for flooding victims
Posted 7/05/11 (Tue)
By Caroline Downs
FEMA representatives are set up for business in Ward County, searching for persons who have been affected by flooding events.
And they have money ready to assist those individuals.
Noel Boxer, external affairs officer with FEMA, encouraged people to register with FEMA immediately, whether by calling 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA), going online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or visiting a disaster recovery center in Minot or Burlington.
“The sooner folks get into the system, the better off they are,” said Boxer. “There are several folks in Minot who have already received grant funds in their bank accounts.”
Disaster recovery centers have been opened in Minot at the Minot State Student Center on 500 University Avenue and the Minot City Auditorium on 420 3rd Avenue SW. The two Minot locations are open 8 am until 8 pm this week to assist any persons or businesses that suffered damage in the 2011 North Dakota flooding, dating back to February.
A disaster recovery center opened in Burlington yesterday at the Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary School on 301 Wallace Street South. Hours for assistance there will be 9 am to 7 pm today through Saturday, July 9th.
According to Boxer, after a person registers for disaster assistance, he or she will be contacted by a FEMA inspector regarding their property. “Then a determination of eligibility of benefits will be made by FEMA,” he said. “People could receive benefits within a matter of days.”
Rental assistance available
for Minot’s housing situation
He noted the first grant dollars most people receive are for rental assistance. “These are not taxable and they do not have to be repaid,” he said.
Rental assistance funds usually pay for temporary housing in motels, apartments or other typical rental locations. However, given the extremely tight housing market in Minot before the Mouse River flood, Ward County has been recognized as a unique situation.
Because of the limited availability of housing, the rental assistance grant dollars can be used in situations where evacuees are staying with family, friends or other individuals. “You would need to get some type of signed receipt with a valid phone number,” Boxer said. “This is especially important for a non-typical rental situation.”
He emphasized the rental assistance grants are intended to provide for physical and mental health needs of the flood victims. “These are generally used for a variety of disaster-related needs,” he said, “to allow people to resume some normalcy in their lives.”
The FEMA rental assistance grants pay for 30 days of housing assistance. After the first 30 days, an individual should notify FEMA if his or her home is not safe, sanitary or habitable yet. If the applicant is deemed eligible, FEMA can release another rental assistance grant for a second 30-day period.
All flood victims should
apply for federal aid
While many Minot and Burlington residents have several feet of water in their homes and face huge losses, some people have relatively little damage on their property. Boxer encouraged every victim of the flood to seek FEMA assistance.
“You’re not taking funds from another person,” he said. “This is a federal appropriation. Even if you’ve experienced minor damage, you should still apply. There is sufficient funding for everyone who has been impacted by the disaster declaration.”
He continued, “Don’t rule yourself out. Let FEMA determine your eligibility.”
Flood victims do have a deadline to meet. Anyone who wants FEMA assistance must register within 60 days of June 24th, when the disaster declaration was issued.
Also, residents and businesses in Renville, McHenry and Morton counties have been approved for federal disaster assistance, as of June 29th, and can follow the same instructions for registering with FEMA by phone or online.
Boxer said as of June 30th, 6,048 applications for assistance had been received from North Dakota flood victims, with 80 to 90 percent of those coming from Ward County. More than $2.5 million in grant funds for rental assistance has been appropriated for the declared counties, and close to 4000 inspections have been completed.
“We have 48 inspectors available for Ward and Burleigh counties,” said Boxer, adding that the majority of inspectors were working in Ward County.
Given the fact that only a few hundred Mouse River flood victims stayed in one of the two shelters made available in Minot, Boxer said he and other FEMA officials were working to locate the thousands of people staying in campgrounds or other cities.
He emphasized the disaster recovery centers in Minot would be open for as long as people were coming in and using the resources available there.
“We’re here for the long haul, working closely with state officials and local officials,” he said. “And because there’s such an extreme housing crisis here, we’re expecting a long haul.”
Those affected by disaster encouraged to register with FEMA
State and federal officials encourage those affected by the disaster to register for assistance immediately by calling toll-free 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. The toll-free line is in operation from 6 am to midnight (CDT) until further notice.
Disaster recovery centers are also open this week at the Minot State Student Center and Minot City Auditorium from 8 am to 8 pm, and at the Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary School from 9 am to 7 pm.
FEMA’s Individual Assistance program includes a wide range of aid, including emergency home repair, temporary disaster housing, replacement grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. For those insured, the government may help pay for basic needs not covered by insurance.
Officials remind affected residents they must register with FEMA to be eligible for all forms of federal assistance. Filing damage reports with state or county emergency managers or voluntary agencies does not start the federal disaster assistance process.
Officials advise applicants to have the following information available when applying for assistance:
• Current telephone number;
• Address at the time of the disaster and current address;
• Social Security number, if available;
• A general list of damages and losses suffered;
• In cases where the applicant is insured, the names of the company and agent, as well as the policy number;
• Bank account coding for those who wish to speed up assistance by using direct deposit.
FEMA disaster assistance covers basic needs only and does not normally compensate eligible applicants for their entire losses. FEMA disaster aid is generally offered in the form of grants that do not have to be paid back.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes to repair or replace damaged or destroyed private property. SBA also offers low-interest working capital loans, called Economic Injury Disaster Loans, to small businesses and most private, non-profit organization.