The Billings Outpost

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FEMA, SBA offering flood assistance help

By T.J. GILLES - For The Outpost

Two federal agencies have programs to assist Montanans harmed in this spring’s floods.

But representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration said that it’s important for flood victims in 16 Montana counties and three Indian reservations to submit claims before Sept. 27.

In a visit to the Outpost offices Monday, FEMA’s Banta York II said some applicants may be getting claims back as rejected.

“The letter is not the end of the process,” said Ed Tinsley, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services administrator. “It provides what steps are necessary to move you along in the process.”

Mr. York said that FEMA and SBA had informational booths at last week’s MontanaFair and found that many people were not aware that programs were available. About 75 people stopped in at the fair booth Saturday, he said, and many left with forms to fill out.

There may even be assistance available to recover penalties if flooding caused people to withdraw money from such funds as Individual Retirement Accounts, he said.

He listed common drawbacks that resulted in initial denial:

• More insurance information needed. FEMA does not duplicate any insurance payments for damages.

• Unsigned documents.

• Incomplete personal information.

• Registrant or property location can’t be found.

He said those who have filed initial claims will be given a case number and can speak to someone about their matters by calling a national hotline at 1-800-621-3362 or visiting one of the roving disaster recovery centers that travel around affected areas. Centers can be located at fema.gov/drclocator.

Already, Mr. York said, FEMA has provided Montanans with more than $16 million in flood-related damages.

In addition to individuals, FEMA also works with public entities such as county, reservation and city governments and some nonprofits. Such projects are funded 75 percent by FEMA and the rest by local entities. So far, FEMA has pumped about $12.8 million into Montana projects for shoring up infrastructure such as bridges, ditches and roads.

Mr. York advised those who had flooding to apply whether or not there is any immediate, apparent damage.

“We’re encouraging people to start a case and start that documentation,” he said. “Water damage might not show up until three, four, five months down the road. If you’ve had water under your house, you might have mold or mildew damage ... wood might swell up.”

Mr. MacDonald said his agency has several types of loans to mitigate disaster damage:

• Home disaster loans for cleanup or repair.

• Business physical disaster loans for replacement of inventory or damaged property, machinery and equipment. Nonprofits such as churches or educational facilities also are eligible.

• Economic Injury Disaster Loans to businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits which lost income because of the disasters.

While the FEMA payments are grants, Mr. MacDonald emphasized that the SBA programs are payback programs and recipients must show ability to repay those loans, which range from 2.5 percent up to 4 percent interest.

Despite many disasters nationwide and an apparent late beginning to hurricane season, Mr. MacDonald said the funds are available and not competitive with other areas.

“SBA is not taking money away from people in Joplin (Mo.),” which was devastated by a tornado, he said.

 

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