Baton Rouge, LA -- Federal and state recovery officials today called for a total community effort to remove traffic-choking and potentially harmful debris from homes, farms, roadways and towns.
"Debris removal and disaster recovery go hand in hand," Federal Coordinating Officer Carlos Mitchell of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said. "We are moving with all possible speed to assist the state and local governments in removing debris within the limits of our programs."
State Coordinating Officer Art Jones said debris removal starts with the property owner.
"Property owners should make sure that debris on their property doesn't block storm drains, fireplugs, alleyways or pedestrian traffic," he said. "People who are physically unable to help move debris should contact their local government for help."
Both officials urged caution in hiring contractors to do the job. "Check the contractor's references carefully, put all agreements in writing and ask your city or parish attorney if your community or parish has a percentage increase limit above the normal fee that a contractor can charge for the disaster-related job," Jones said.
Here's what government can do to help individuals:
- First, the house must be repairable. If debris is impeding safe access to the home or causing an unsafe condition and the occupant has no insurance, FEMA will consider granting funds to do the job, provided the applicant has registered for individual assistance.
- Debris removal expenses can be included in a loan application to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Occupants may provide their own labor, but their work and that of family members cannot be included as an expense.
For businesses, SBA guidelines provide that amounts paid for repairs can be listed as part of the real estate loan. Debris removal costs fall within any business loan made to the property owner by the SBA.
SBA does not make loans for agricultural losses, but does provide loan assistance to businesses that rely on the farming industry for revenue.
Loans also are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (318-473-7721). Qualifications include:
- Own or operate land located in a declared parish;
- Being an established farm operator with sufficient farm or ranch experience;
- Are a citizen or permanent United States resident;
- Have suffered at least a 30-percent crop production loss, or a physical loss to livestock, livestock products, real estate or chattel property;
- Have an acceptable credit history and can have repayment ability;
- Are unable to get credit from commercial sources; and
- Can provide collateral to secure a loan.
Governments, including parish, state, local and certain nonprofits, fall under the umbrella of public assistance programs, which are administered separately.