PASADENA, Calif. -- ?The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is making sure that eligible residents of Oakridge Mobile Home Park have temporary housing while they wait for the park to reopen.
Approximately 600 households had to evacuate the park, which has remained closed since fire raced through in mid-November. Approximately 500 manufactured homes were destroyed while about 100 others will be habitable again once the park is able to reopen.
While they wait to return, Oakridge residents are making do with a variety of temporary housing arrangements from living with relatives or friends to renting homes, apartments or mobile homes elsewhere.
"We are keeping track of these residents to make sure they get whatever rental assistance they are eligible for," said Mark Neveau, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for the disaster. "As time goes on and residents run out of insurance benefits for their rentals, we may be able to step in and help."
Most homeowner insurance policies include "loss of use" benefits that can be used to pay for a temporary rental unit until the policy-holder can return home. While those benefits remain, residents are not eligible for FEMA assistance.
"But they may become eligible for help if their insurance benefit runs out," explained Tom Maruyama, deputy state coordinating officer. "Anyone who registered with FEMA and was initially denied assistance because they had insurance should call back if their loss of use benefit runs out before they are able to return to or replace their damaged dwelling." For more information call FEMA's toll-free helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
At a recent public meeting for Oakridge residents, many expressed concerns that their insurance will run out before they can buy replacement mobile homes and move back into the park.
FEMA also may be able to assist residents who are insured but have not yet received their insurance benefits. If 30 days or more have elapsed since an insurance claim was filed and no benefit has been received, FEMA may be able to provide an advance against insurance benefits. The money must be repaid to FEMA when the insurance is received.
What FEMA requires to determine eligibility for applicants with insurance is a copy of the insurance policy and their claim. When the issue is the need for rental assistance because the loss of use insurance benefit has run out, evidence of rental cost also is required. Often a copy of a lease agreement for the temporary residence will suffice.
Rental assistance and insurance advance assistance from FEMA is available for any eligible applicant in any of the four counties declared as a presidential major disaster area ? Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara.
Once an applicant becomes eligible for FEMA rental assistance, the amount they receive is the "fair market value" for rental housing appropriate for the size of the household in their county of residence. Those values are determined annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Temporary housing assistance may be available for up to 18 months from the date of the disaster declaration, which was Nov. 18, 2008, for the wildfire disaster in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties.
There is a limit of $30,300 for any combination of FEMA Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance under the Individuals and Household Program. The Other Needs Assistance grants, which are jointly funded by FEMA and California on a 75 percent-25 percent basis, may pay to replace personal property, transportation-related needs, disaster-related medical or dental costs and other serious unmet needs.
For applicants who receive the maximum FEMA grant and still have serious unmet needs, a separate California grant program may be able to provide state supple...