FEMA opens its pocketbook

President George W. Bush (R) declared Stephenson and Winnebago counties disaster areas Aug. 30 in the wake of a storm that caused widespread flooding Aug. 7. Less than a year earlier, floods ravaged areas of Rockford, but no declaration was made on the federal level.

Following the latest catastrophe, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, Democratic U.S. Senators from Illinois, along with U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16), urged President Bush to recognize the suffering caused by recent flooding.

More than 900 structures in the two counties sustained flood damage in early August. As a result, at least 19 homes were condemned in Rockford alone.

Manzullo argued state and local governments simply do not have adequate resources to deal with the needs of our flood victims.

“I can tell you this federal assistance will go a long way to help them recover and get back to living their lives,” Manzullo said, thanking President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The presidential declaration paves the way for local flood victims to get their hands on recovery grants and loans.

FEMA will administer grants of up to $28,200 per eligible household for home repair, or to replace other property damaged by last month’s flooding. Grants do not have to be repaid.

As with the Labor Day flood of 2006, low-interest disaster loans are also being made available through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

When applying for FEMA relief assistance, you will need to provide your social security number, current and pre-disaster address, a phone number you can be reached at, any insurance information and annual household income. If you wish to have funds wired directly to a bank account, you will also need to provide routing and account numbers.

Within 24 hours of being added to the FEMA system, victims are able to check the status of their applications, and an inspector will be in contact within 14 days. Victims with insurance are urged to first file their claims.

Within about 10 days of inspection, FEMA will determine whether to offer an assistance grant. Victims who are denied will have the opportunity to appeal.

Disaster relief funds are typically available for 18 months after a presidential declaration. Although the funds need not be repaid when used appropriately, FEMA requires that receipts be kept for three years to document how the money is used.

Business owners and residents whose properties sustained damage are urged to apply immediately for assistance by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., or by logging on to www.fema.gov. from the Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2007, issue

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