Washington, D.C. - The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has declared a major disaster for Maryland, opening the way for the use of federal disaster funds and emergency resources to help families and businesses recover from the effects of Hurricane Isabel.
Michael D. Brown, FEMA Director and Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response at Homeland Security, said the President took the action immediately after receiving FEMA's analysis of the state's request for federal relief. The declaration covers damage to private property from Isabel beginning on September 18.
"President Bush acted quickly because he knows how destructive this storm has been and that people need help now to recover from it," Brown said. "The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA will do all we can to ensure that their immediate and long-term recovery needs are attended to as fast and efficiently as possible."
Following the declaration, Brown designated the city of Baltimore and all of the state's counties eligible for aid to stricken residents that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
In addition, Brown said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal and emergency services related to the hurricane, including requested emergency work undertaken by the federal government.
Brown indicated that damage surveys are continuing and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
William Lokey of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate the federal relief effort. Lokey said affected residents and business owners in the designated jurisdictions can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Saturday, September 20, from 7 a.m. to midnight seven days a week until further notice.
Because of the anticipated high volume of initial calls, Lokey urged owners of commercial properties and residents with only minor losses to wait a few days before calling so those whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged can be served first. He also advised that hurricane victims with insurance coverage should contact their insurance company or agent before calling to report losses and, if necessary, to request an advance or partial payment of their settlement.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.