FEMA Deadlines Near; Cost of Storm Damage Tallied
By Rick Hiduk
As local residents continue to assess and address the costliest natural disasters to beset the Endless Mountains region since the 1972 Flood caused by Hurricane Agnes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges home and business owners to heed the final deadline for assistance applications as the agency provides monetary statistics for the area.
According to FEMA public information officer Susan Solomon, 91,241 applications have been accepted by the agency in Pennsylvania alone since August when Hurricane Irene churned up the east coast a few weeks prior to the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee stalling over the commonwealth.
As of Nov. 22, FEMA had approved $128 million in individual assistance grants for renters and homeowners and an additional $69.2 million in low-interest disaster assistance loans for small businesses, homeowners, and renters. Twenty-nine Pennsylvania counties were declared disaster areas by the federal government. The figures, of course, do not include insured losses, lost business revenue, and losses not registered with the agency.
Bradford County tops the list locally with 1,730 registered claims. FEMA has accepted 1,031 applications from Wyoming County and 376 from Sullivan County, with parts of both counties being equally hard hit with flooding rains from both Irene and Lee. Susquehanna County residents and business owners have successfully logged 362 claims.
The deadline for registering storm damage with FEMA is Wednesday, Dec. 14. Residents and business owners who have yet to apply for assistance should call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or log on to www.disasterassistance.gov and have the following information handy: name and social security number, address of the damaged property, current address and telephone number, appropriate insurance information, total household income figures, bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit, description of your damage, and names of persons residing in the household. Those with speech or hearing impairments may call TTY 1-800-462-7585 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily.
According to Solomon, all Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in Pennsylvania will be closed at the end of the business day on Wednesday, Nov. 30. FEMA representatives, who can help flood victims fill out standard disaster relief and Small Business Association (SBA) applications on the spot, are still staffing each of two local DRC offices—at the fire hall in Towanda at 101 Elm St. and in Tunkhannock at 41 Philadelphia Ave. in the old high school. Readers are reminded that they are welcome to visit whichever DRC is more convenient to visit in terms of time and distance. The DRC at Tunkhannock is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov 26.
Solomon stressed the importance to business owners and homeowners to complete the SBA application, regardless if one intends to take advantage of the offer or not.
“Even if they don’t plan to take a loan from SBA, filling out the application opens the door for other assistance,” Solomon explained. “If they are approved, they can turn the loan down. But if they don’t apply, they will be ineligible for additional assistance later on,” reasserting that SBA loans are available to homeowners as well as business owners for repairing or replacing lost or damaged structures and personal property.
The Dec. 14 deadline also pertains to those needing temporary housing. Many rent vouchers have already been issued across the four-county readership area of the Rocket-Courier. If temporary housing is not available, Solomon related, flood victims could be eligible for a temporary housing unit.