Washington, DC -- The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that federal disaster aid has been made available for Pennsylvania to help families and businesses in Chester County recover from the effects of a series of storms that began early last week.
Michael D. Brown, FEMA Director and Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response at Homeland Security, said the assistance was authorized under a major disaster declaration signed last night by President Bush following a review of FEMA's analysis of the state's request for federal relief. The declaration covers damage to private property from Tropical Storm Henri, Tropical Storm Isabel and related severe storms and flooding that occurred over the period of September 15-23.
Immediately after the President's action, Brown designated Chester County eligible for aid to affected individuals and families that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs. 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.
Brown said the declaration also provides funding for the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that damage surveys are continuing and additional forms of assistance may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
Thomas Davies of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate the federal relief effort. Davies said affected residents and business owners in Chester County 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 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
Because of the high volume of calls still being received for Hurricane Isabel, Davies 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 those with insurance coverage should contact their insurance company or agent before calling to report losses and, if necessary, 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 Citizens Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.