OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The $9 million in disaster assistance that has gone to residents affected by the mid- January, severe winter weather is partly the result of the extensive community relations effort of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD). These officials spread throughout the state, knocking on doors and talking to people affected by the January 6-16, 2009, severe winter storm, landslides and flooding. They are encouraging people from 15 designated counties to apply for disaster assistance before the deadline of March 31.
Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn said, "We are proud of our outreach efforts. Designed to reach people in the 15 designated counties, we have reached thousands of people, resulting in over 3,000 disaster assistance registrations and the disbursement of over $9 million. We remain committed to helping everyone eligible to get the assistance they deserve. But they must do so by March 31."
Since the Presidential declaration was issued on January 30, community relations representatives have contacted 5,643 residences, 1,089 businesses, 364 community based organizations, 477 county/local government agencies, and 759 faith based organizations. In addition to talking with people, they are handing out flyers and other information and attending meetings and church services when invited. They encourage people to apply for disaster assistance, answer questions and correct any misconceptions residents may have.
One aspect of this comprehensive effort is the established relationship with Native American tribal associations in the declared counties. FEMA and state officials met with 21 tribes across the declared counties, from the Lummi and Nooksack in Whatcom County in the northern part of the state, to the Cowlitz in Cowlitz County in the south, to the Jamestown S'kallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah and Quileute in Clallam County in the west.
There are also several teams of multi-lingual representatives prepared to meet with members of these particular communities. These representatives have the ability to speak 8 languages: Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. Many flyers have been printed up in not only these languages but also in Croatian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Japanese, Russian and Tagalog. Multilingual members have also been invited to speak at various forums, from Spanish speaking radio stations to Buddhist congregations.
State Coordinating Officer Kurt Hardin emphasized, "Washington is a state that has a rich diversity of populations. Our outreach efforts are designed to effectively get the word out to all people affected by the mid-January disaster. We believe we have done well in this regard and are continuing to try to reach everyone that was affected."
All residents of the following designated counties are eligible to apply for disaster assistance until
March 31: Benton, Cowlitz, Clallam, Grays Harbor, King, Kittitas, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, Wahkiakum and Whatcom. They can apply at 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) (TTY 1-800-462-7585) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, or register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.