Harrisburg, PA -- In only six days since Chester County was declared eligible for federal and state assistance, the first disaster housing grants have gone out to families affected by Tropical Storms Henri and Isabel, according to disaster recovery officials. President Bush declared the county a disaster area on Sept. 26.
"This assistance is an important step in the recovery process, and reflects Governor Rendell's persistence and commitment to providing help to those victims as quickly as possible," said PA Emergency Management Director David M. Sanko. "In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with our federal, local and volunteer partners to help address the needs of Pennsylvania residents affected by the disaster."
The first checks were issued on Wednesday. Currently, 30 awards have been approved for a total of $94,929. All were to help applicants make emergency repairs to their homes or, if the house was more heavily damaged, to rent another place to live, according to FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Tom Davies. If an applicant chose the direct deposit option, the money may already be in their accounts. A total of 203 applications have been received to date.
"We are pleased that we were able to send the first checks out to disaster victims so quickly," Davies said. "Our first concern is for the housing needs of people affected by a disaster, and that's what these first checks represent. Other checks will continue to flow to those eligible for disaster assistance under this and other federal and state programs as other people affected by the storms register for aid.
Residents of Chester County, who had losses between Sept. 15-23, are urged to call the FEMA toll-free registration line at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY for the speech- and hearing-impaired: 1-800-462-7585) to register for assistance. The lines are open from 7 a.m. to midnight seven days a week until further notice.
Recovery officials recently announced the opening of a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at the Chester County Government Services Center in West Chester. The DRC provides face-to-face assistance and information to disaster victims affected by the storms. The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will close permanently on Sat. October 11 at 2 p.m. The DRC will not be open on Sunday, October 5.
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.