FEMA Guiding Victims In Recovery
Relief Workers Meet More Than 50 People In 3 Days A Valley Event Center
By Samar Fay Courier Editor
Published: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a Disaster Recovery Center in the Valley Event Center this week, the fifth DRC to open in the state. The center is staffed by disaster recovery specialists who can provide information and answer questions about flood-related assistance.
"Northeastern Montana had record snowfall this year mixed with spring storms that created a mess for Valley County residents," said Ed Tinsley, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services administrator. "I urge everyone who had flooding to call and register with FEMA or go over to the recovery center if you need additional help. Do not let this opportunity for assistance slip by and end up with uncompensated expenses."
Individual assistance and low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to Montana residents and business owners as a result of President Obama’s major disaster declaration. The declaration covers Valley County, as well as 15 other Montana counties: Big Horn, Carbon, Cascade, Custer, Fergus, Garfield, Hill, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Musselshell, Petroleum, Sweet Grass and Yellowstone, and three reservations: the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation and the Fort Belknap Reservation, for damages caused by severe storms and flooding that occurred April 4 through July 22 this year.
In Glasgow, people have been coming steadily into the Valley Event Center. They began coming in the door on Sunday when the team was setting up tables and not even open yet. By Tuesday afternoon, the team had helped 54 people, according to Layne Segda, the DRC manager. All types of information are available, from state assistance resources to contacts with free legal services. Linda Butgerait, a hazard mitigation specialist, described to a couple in detail how to spray a bleach mixture into the cracks of the floor joists in the basement, where black mold spores lurk, and how to avoid spreading the spores through the rest of the house.
The first step for anyone is to register with FEMA. Homeowners, renters and businesses, whether insured or not, are encouraged to register by calling 800-621-3362 (800-462-7585 TTY) or going online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Registration by mobile device is also available at m.fema.gov. Multilingual registration can be done by phone. Registration with FEMA must be done directly and cannot be done through county offices.
"Even if you registered with the state or your county, you still need to register specifically with FEMA to be eligible for assistance," said Tinsley. "FEMA assistance is available for recovery costs such as housing assistance, personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.”
"We want Montanans to register and get federal help as they recover from the flooding,” said federal coordinating officer Doug Mayne. “Assistance isn't guaranteed, but if you don't register, it's guaranteed you won't get any assistance.”
Register even if you are insured. Your insurance coverage may not be adequate and FEMA may be able to assist with some of your uncompensated or out-of-pocket expenses.
Leaving the flood plain
Ray has lived on Rice Road on the north side of the Milk River in Tampico all his life, farming and ranching, but he said he is going to “quit being a river rat.” The river came up fast in this flood and they barely got out with their cars. By nightfall, the water at their house was 6 feet deep. After they left, raccoons moved in and had babies. The house needs gutting but they hate to tear it down, because some parts of it are 160 years old.
Realistically, they know they want to rebuild on higher ground. They moved to a motel and expect to be there for a year.
“They give us all the opportunities we want,” Ray said. “We can’t build back in the flood area. There’s no sense to it.”
Still active and giving
“The people here are very friendly,” Ricker said. “I wonder, how can you be so kind when you’ve lost everything?”
She hears of lots of damage to basements, foundations, furnaces and water heaters. She has helped people who had to move out of their apartment or house because the building was unsafe. Rental assistance is needed in many of these cases. She figures they are probably living in motels and hotels, because the FEMA team had problems getting rooms when they arrived.
Sometimes people just need to vent, she said. She waits out their burst of frustration and then gets down to the business of acquiring information.
“The hardest part is telling people it can’t be put back the way you had it,” she said. “But we will give you what you need.”
Duane Mattfeldt is living with the loss of everything he had. He and his sons escaped from their house north of the Milk River Bridge on the Fort Peck Highway with a camper and little else, early in the morning on April 8. They moved out of the camper into a motel apartment a month and a half ago.
“It’s not too bad, but it’s not like home,” Mattfeldt said.
His house is not salvageable, he said. He has sprayed many gallons of bleach inside, trying to combat mold, but the walls are cracking. He is trying to get mitigation from FEMA, so he can relocate and build a house somewhere else. He has been told it may take six months to a year and a half. He said he has received $1,800 in rental assistance.
$2.4 million approved
As of Wednesday, Aug. 10, the following is a summary of federal assistance to individuals:
• $2,428,908 in total housing and other needs has been approved.
Not just for businesses
FEMA does not require that an applicant file for an SBA loan. Housing assistance is not dependent on filling out an SBA loan application. However, an applicant must fill out and return an SBA loan application to be eligible for additional assistance under the part of the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program from FEMA that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses. Even if you have insurance, disaster officials urge people to apply with SBA.
"Completing an SBA application opens the door to other types of disaster assistance," said Tinsley, the DES coordinator. "There is no cost to apply for an SBA loan, and there is no obligation to accept one after it is approved."
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.
Businesses of any size and private, nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to homeowners and business owners to help with the cost of making improvements that protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.
FEMA inspectors make smaller grants for immediate safety and health needs, said George Camp, public information officer for SBA. SBA is for the big projects, for long-term recovery, he said.
SBA disaster loans may be used to relocate.
The deadline to file for physical damage loans under this disaster declaration is Sept. 26, 2011.
Economic injury loans
EIDLs are also available in counties contiguous to the disaster declaration counties: Blaine, Broadwater, Carter, Chouteau, Daniels, Deer Lodge, Fallon, Flathead, Gallatin, Golden Valley, Granite, Lake, Liberty, Madison, McCone, Meagher, Mineral, Park, Phillips, Powder River, Powell, Prairie, Ravalli, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sanders, Silver Bow, Stillwater, Teton, Treasure and Wheatland. The filing deadline for these loans is April 26, 2012.
Interest rates can be as low as 2.563 percent for homeowners and renters, 4 percent for businesses, and 3 percent for private, nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.
Recovering from a disaster is a process that includes a combination of personal insurance, FEMA disaster assistance and potentially a low-interest SBA loan. Even if you have insurance, you should apply with FEMA and the SBA.
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