Texarkana, TX, -- One of the greatest problems facing many homeowners after the December ice storm is clearing fallen trees and broken limbs from their property. Cleaning up debris is a cooperative effort between landowners and government agencies. Individuals are responsible for clearing their property and local and county governments remove the debris that is brought to the edge of the road.
City, county and state governments are not authorized to remove debris from private property except where extraordinary threats to human health and safety may exist. This policy protects the liability of both the workers clearing debris and the property owner. In some instances, FEMA's disaster housing program may provide funds for debris and tree assistance; funding limited to the minimum required to remove health and safety hazards, protect against additional damage to the residence or provide access to the residence. FEMA's disaster housing program -- which cannot duplicate insurance assistance -- is available in Bowie, Cass, Fannin, Lamar, Red River and Titus counties.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) can consider debris removal for inclusion in a disaster loan application. Amounts paid to others for clearing debris and any equipment rental can be listed as part of repairs to real estate. The SBA loss verifier will make coverage determinations on a case--by--case basis at the time of inspection.
Individuals needing help with debris and tree removal have several sources available to assist them. For example, a homeowner's insurance agent may have listings for reputable, licensed tree service companies. (Please note that the state and federal government do not recommend or endorse any contractor and property owners should be suspicious of a contractor who says, or presents literature saying, that they are working for the state or federal government.)
People who are physically unable to move debris to the curb should contact their local government for referrals to a variety of organizations that are willing to assist people with special needs. Some communities are also sponsoring clean--up days to help in the effort.
There is still time for residents of Bowie, Cass, Fannin, Lamar, Red River and Titus counties to register for FEMA assistance by calling 1--800--462--9029 (1--800--462--7585 for speech and hearing impaired). The deadline to apply is March 9, 2001. After the initial registration call, referrals and information may be obtained by calling the Helpline at 1--800--525--0321. Registration and Helpline phones are available Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST.