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 South Carolina, opening the way for the use of federal disaster funds to help people recover from the effects of Tropical Storm Frances.
Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the President took the action following a review of FEMA’s analysis of the state’s request for federal assistance. The declaration covers damage to private property from the tropical storm beginning September 6. It follows the major disasters declared for the state on September 1 for Hurricane Charley and on September 15 for Tropical Storm Gaston.
After the declaration, Brown designated the following 25 counties eligible for federal aid to stricken residents and business owners: Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Fairfield, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter, Williamsburg and York.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, 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 funding will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that additional designations may be made later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Michael Bolch of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate federal recovery operations. Bolch said that affected residents and business owners in the designated counties 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 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.
As a result of the intense disaster activity in the past weeks, FEMA’s toll-free teleregistration line is receiving an extremely high call volume. Additional call centers and registrars have been added and callers are advised that if they get a busy signal, to try the call again later, or after 6 p.m. Individuals can also find valuable recovery information on the agency’s Web Site at http://www.fema..gov
FEMA is asking the public’s assistance in managing call volume to support the agency’s effort to prioritize help to those with the greatest need. Owners of commercial properties and residents with only minor losses are urged to wait a few days before calling so those whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged can be served first. 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 the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.