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Feds lend a helping hand

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By Donald Richie

Harrison County residents affected by the Feb. 6 storms are now receiving help from the federal government.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) opened Monday in the parking lot next to the Harrison County Sheriffs office.

Harrison is one of six counties added last week to the original nine declared eligible for federal assistance.

Federal disaster assistance can include grants for short-term rental needs, for homeowners to make repairs and for a variety of other disaster-related expenses.

Grants cover basic needs only and will not normally compensate storm victims for their entire loss.

At the DRCs, people can get their questions answered about registration for disaster assistance, learn techniques for rebuilding stronger and safer, obtain help applying for low-interest U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans and find other information about programs that may be useful to help them get back on their feet, said Charlie Winter, assistant director of Kentucky Emergency Management and state coordinating officer for storm recovery.

The local center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Dianna Gee, public information officer for FEMA, said the Harrison DRC will be in town through Saturday at least, longer if needed.

Were here as long as they need us, she said.

It is not necessary to go to a center to apply for or obtain help with an application for federal assistance. FEMA officials encourage affected homeowners, renters and business owners, if possible, to register for assistance before they visit a DRC.

Normally, we would have them register before they come, said Robin Wright, DRC manager. But if not, we have it available here.

FEMAs toll free telephone registration and help line, 800-621-FEMA (3362), is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time seven days a week. For speech- or hearing-impaired applicants, the TTY number is 800-462-7585. Applicants can register online any time at www.fema.gov.

However, Gee said pre-registration is not mandatory, just preferred. She said there may be cases where people simply feel better coming to the center at the start.

Some people may feel more comfortable talking to someone and having them walk through it, she said.

Once registered, whether beforehand or at the center, the status of aid can be checked at the DRC.

One of the key things people should know is what is covered by the FEMA grants.

FEMA only covers uninsured and underinsured losses to primary residences and personal property.

If theyve converted a barn into a farm house and they live there, that would qualify, said Gee.

Farm and business properties are not included in the aid package. However, there are options for those needs. The SBA and the Farm Service Agency have plans for those who are eligible. (See related story, page 5).

SBA has representatives on site to answer questions, provide applications and assistance completing them, and to accept completed applications. Registration with FEMA is required for SBA loans.

Applicants will be asked to provide:

Social Security number.

Address of and directions to the damaged property.

Description of the damage.

Information about insurance coverage.

A contact telephone number.

A current mailing address.

A disaster mitigation specialist, April Pepin, was brought in by FEMA to help people learn about disaster preparation.

Mitigation is what a person can do to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to people or properties from natural disasters.

We go out to the community and help people learn how to rebuild safer, better and stronger, Pepin said.

Mitigation is one of our real good programs, Gee said.

Pepin has many types of materials available for not only homeowners, but children on the different methods of mitigation as well as information on how to deal with stress.

After you apply for aid, FEMA will mail a copy of the application and a copy of Help After a Disaster: Applicants Guide to the Individuals and Households Program, which should answer many questions.

This publication explains how FEMAs disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how to best make all these programs work.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you do not have insurance, an inspector should contact you within 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home.

All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government. If you get an SBA Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return the application to be considered for a loan.

To check the status of your case, go to www.fema.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or (TTY) 800-462-7585 for the hearing- or speech-impaired.