An Update on FEMA Funds and Mobile Homes

The Bloomsburg Daily had a chance to talk with Eugene Brezeny from the FEMA News Desk in Harrisburg this morning.  The goal was to get a status update on the amount of funds disbursed to Columbia County at this point, as well as to get an update on the status of FEMA mobile homes and when they might show up in the area.

In the statistics news, as of this morning (10/20/2011), FEMA has received 2329 disaster assistance applications from Columbia County for Tropical Storm Lee.  Of those, 1436 have been approved. Those approved applications represent $7 million in assistance to Columbia County.  According to Brezeny, that money is used for home repairs, rental assistance if a house is not fit to be lived in, and other needs that might not be covered by insurance.  To put this in perspective, at the statewide level, there have been 38,691 applications, and of those, 21,665 have been approved for a statewide total of $83.8 million in assistance for Tropical Storm Lee.  (Hurricane Irene is tracked separately and so far FEMA has provided $28.86 million in disaster assistance for those Pennsylvania victims, none of whom were in Columbia County.)

If you were turned down for FEMA assistance, it is important to remember that you can appeal that decision.  When you do that, you are essentially asking FEMA to review your case again.  An applicant’s first step in the appeals process is to explain in writing why you think the decision was incorrect.  You must include your name, date, and place of birth, address, FEMA application number, disaster number, and your signature.  The letter must be notarized, include a copy of a state issued ID card, or include the following statement: “I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”  Letters can be mailed to FEMA, National Processing Service Center, PO Box 10055, Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055, or faxed to 1-800-827-8112, Attn: FEMA.  More information is available in the FEMA applicant’s guide.

The FEMA mobile homes story is slightly less straightforward.  Mr. Brezeny stated that FEMA’s first priority is to get people back into their own homes.  If that can’t happen, FEMA provides rental assistance.  Thus, the first step is to quickly get the financial assistance to the area so people can repair their homes or find a suitable rental.  And even though FEMA is currently working with the state to coordinate rentals and make vacancy information readily available, he admitted that it is difficult in certain areas where there is not surplus housing.  At that point, he said, “We take it another step and plan for FEMA mobile homes.”  The only area that currently has a declared FEMA mobile home location is in Bradford County.  No other firm decisions have been made as of today.

However, he went on to say that “We know that time is ticking with cold weather upon us.”  He explained that FEMA was working on options for Columbia County, but finding a suitable location and working with local authorities takes a little time.  According to Brezeny, it takes 45-60 days to build out a FEMA park and that plans would be to start with a small number of units — probably around 15.  Other possibilities include working with a pre-existing commercial park, or simply placing mobile homes on a resident’s property.  But in that case, FEMA must work with local officials to ensure that those locations are not in the flood plain and allow for the mobile home placement under local regulations.  In addition, there needs to be access to utilities.

Brezeny understood that it was frustrating for victims who want some real details at this point, but he said “We are working vigorously to get everyone into the right housing. It just takes time.”

FEMA Approves More Than $165.4 Million in Disaster Relief

HARRISBURG, Pa. — More than $165.4 million in disaster relief is approved for Pennsylvanians struck by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The news was announced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).

FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program approved $107.4 Million in grants to eligible applicants for temporary housing, home repairs, personal property losses and other disaster-related needs such as medical, dental and funeral costs. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved close to $25 million in low-interest disaster loans and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) contributed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s recovery by settling $33 million in insurance claims.

This brings the total of amount of funds going to individuals impacted by the storms to $165.4 million.

“The level of funds approved means many residents and business owners are on their way to recovery,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas J. McCool. “Getting the funds into their hands as quickly as possible is our goal.”

Mr. McCool’s comments were echoed by his counterpart at PEMA.

“Reaching this milestone of over $165 million is very meaningful,” said PEMA Commonwealth Coordinating Officer John Forr. “It tells us families and businesses will soon rebound from these disasters.”

To register for disaster assistance call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. For those using 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. Operators are multilingual and calls are answered seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smart phone or tablet at m.fema.gov. If you have a disability and need help registering, don’t hesitate to contact FEMA to ask for help.

Here is a summary of disaster assistance at close of business, October 13, 2011:

  • $107.4 million approved for Disaster Assistance;
  • $99.3 million in housing assistance for personal property loss, medical costs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance
  • $8.1 million in personal property loss, medical costs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance
  • $25 million in SBA approved disaster loans;
  • $33 million in NFIP claims settled;
  • 79,473 individuals registered with FEMA for disaster assistance;
  • 22 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) including the counties of Berks, Bucks, Bradford, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montgomery, Northumberland, Philadelphia (2), Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wyoming and York (Bucks DRC closed on 10/12, Chester, Cumberland and Montgomery DRCs close at 7 p.m on 10/14);
  • 20,425 visitors were helped at the DRCs;
  • 66,449 inspections of damaged properties completed.

The following is a list of the DRCs with the number of applicants who visited to date.

Disaster Designated County: No. of Visitors

Bradford: 1223
Columbia: 1987
Dauphin: 2285
Lycoming: 1531
Luzerne: 1513
Wyoming: 1125
Sullivan: 516
Lebanon: 1733
Philadelphia (1): 2081
Susquehanna: 321
Lancaster: 407
Chester: 231
Montgomery: 635
Schuylkill: 434
Snyder: 317
Bucks: 1295
Philadelphia (2): 757
Cumberland: 115
Delaware: 1081
Northumberland: 558
York: 244
Berks: 36

Article Courtesy of FEMA

Photo Courtesy of Liz Roll, FEMA

Applications Being Taken for Gary Hock Fund

Applications are starting to be taken for flood victims who are interested in receiving grants from the Gary Hock Fund, which is being administered by the Wesley United Methodist Church and the Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation.  Hock, a former Bloomsburg resident, generously donated $100,000 to the area to assist victims of flood damage. His attorney, Jack Mihalik, says the grants are aimed at folks in the flood-ravaged area of Bloomsburg, Fernville in Hemlock Township, and along Montour Township’s Perry Avenue.  Applications may be filled out at the Bloomsburg YMCA from 5:30-8:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and from 4:00-6:00 on Tuesdays starting tonight.

Photo Courtesy of doctorwonder