Flood victims can get help to repair damage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 9, 2000

Lawrence County residents who suffered home damage during last month’s flooding can access federal disaster monies now.

Thursday, March 09, 2000

Lawrence County residents who suffered home damage during last month’s flooding can access federal disaster monies now.

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President Clinton on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for five Ohio counties that experienced heavy rainfall during severe storms Feb. 19-20.

The presidential order – requested by the governor March 1 – makes federal grants, temporary housing and low-cost loans available to affected residents and business owners in Adams, Gallia, Lawrence, Meigs and Scioto counties whose cleanup expenses were not covered by insurance or public assistance programs.

Residents can start the assistance process by calling a toll-free hotline to Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives, who will administer the disaster aid, said Don Mootz, director of the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency.

The number, 1-800-462-9029, will operate 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, until further notice.

"They have to call that number to get the individual assistance," Mootz said. "That’s the beginning step of the application process and without it they can’t be processed when FEMA comes into the county."

FEMA flood experts will take the information from the toll-free hotline then come into the disaster area counties to conduct an assessment, he said.

In other words, FEMA will check only damage claims that were reported, Mootz added.

"They will not assess anything that they haven’t received a call about."

Although about a dozen flood damage cases have been reported in Lawrence County, the February rains caused more severe damage in Scioto and Gallia counties, Mootz said.

The flooding contributed to the deaths of at least two people. Severe storms combined with water runoff to raise the Ohio River some 2 feet above flood stage, swamping low-lying areas along its banks.

"We do have a list of people who have requested assistance and we will contact those people personally to give them the 800 number and advise them how to start the application process," Mootz said. "It’s a FEMA process, not our EMA, so people need to call that 800 number."

And, just because the president has declared the county a disaster area doesn’t mean federal money is automatic, he said.

"This is just an application process," Mootz said, adding FEMA determines eligibility for aid.

"Hopefully, the people who need the help will get the help."

When residents call the toll-free number to apply for assistance, they need to have available a current phone number; their address at the time of the disaster and address where they are now staying; their Social Security number; a general list of damages and losses they have suffered; good directions to the property that was damaged; if insured, an insurance policy number or the agent’s and company’s name; and general financial information.

Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration has made low-interest loans available to Lawrence Countians as well.

Lawrence was not declared a disaster area by the SBA, but assistance to flood victims is being made available because the county adjoins Scioto County, which did receive an SBA disaster declaration.

Not only small businesses, but also individual homeowners, renters and landlords are eligible to apply.

Interested persons can call the SBA Disaster Assistance Program toll-free at 1-800-359-2227 for details or to arrange a meeting with an SBA loan officer.