CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Individuals and families whose homes were damaged in Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake Counties as a result of the severe storms, straight line winds and flooding starting July 27 and continuing may be eligible for disaster housing assistance, according to state and federal disaster recovery officials.
"Our top priority is to make sure that everyone has safe, sanitary and functional housing," Jesse Munoz, Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) federal coordinating officer said. "The disaster housing program is designed to provide immediate assistance to those whose homes were made unlivable because of the flooding."
FEMA's Individuals and Households Program includes grants for temporary disaster housing assistance for homeowners to repair emergency damage from the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to repair the home to a safe, sanitary and functional living condition.
Munoz explained that these grants are not intended to completely restore a home to its pre-disaster condition, and to qualify for a home repair grant, the applicant must be an owner-occupant and the home must be the primary residence.
Residents who applied for disaster assistance can expect to hear from an inspector who will schedule a visit to look at damaged property. FEMA schedules inspections within 7 to 10 days to verify losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration also sends loss verifiers to inspect damaged property of those who have submitted completed loan applications. And local building and safety inspectors may come to see if damaged structures are safe. All of these inspectors should have photo identification and there is no fee for these inspections.
"There is no need to wait for a FEMA inspector's visit before beginning cleanup," Nancy Dragani, State Coordinating Officer and Executive Director of The Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said. "It is not required, but it may be helpful to photograph the damage prior to cleanup. You should always keep receipts for flood damage repairs and expenses already completed."
Homeowners, renters and businesses may also be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration as a result of the major disaster declaration issued by President Bush on August 1.
There are two easy ways to begin the application process. You may call FEMA's toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. Both numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week until further notice, and multilingual operators are also available to answer your call. Residents with Internet access can register on the agency's Web site at www.fema.gov where valuable recovery information is also available.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.