By CHAD ABSHIRE
President Barack Obama declared a disaster for the State of West Virginia last night.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of West Virginia and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, mudslides, and landslides during the period of February 29 to March 5, 2012.”
Earlier in the week, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (both D-W.Va.) urged the president to speed his review of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s request of a disaster declaration in the state.
“West Virginìans who are suffering from this natural disaster are aìready working hard with their communities to rebuild, and now is the time for the federal government to be their partner,” Manchin wrote in his letter to the president.
“The resolve of West Virginians to recover from this disaster is, yet again, being tested,” Rahall said earlier in the week. “I am urging the President to give immediate attention to this matter so that any and all available federal resources can be made available as quickly as possible to hasten that process.”
Obama’s action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm, flooding, landslides, and mudslides in a number of counties, including Mingo. Other counties included were Doddridge, Harrison, Lincoln, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, and Wayne.
The action also makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Lincoln, Marion, and Wayne. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Lastly, federal funding was also made available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Rahall issued a statement Friday night after receiving notification from the White House that West Virginia was granted a major disaster declaration.
“I have personally toured the aftermath of far too many disasters in southern West Virginia,” Rahall said. “These storms, that many have described as a once in a lifetime event, were particularly devastating to family homes.
It is a definite blessing, if not almost a miracle, that we suffered no loss of life in Wayne or Lincoln Counties. This funding will help rebuild families’ lives and our communities. I commend all involved on the swift action in approving this funding.”
According to the press release, Deanne Criswell was named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Criswell said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or 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 operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
A fact sheet from FEMA was sent to the Daily News, and the following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama’s major disaster declaration issued for West Virginia.
Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families Can Include as Required:
• Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
• Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
• Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs. (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)
• Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals. (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)
• Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
• Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
• Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence. (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)
• Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans benefits and social security matters.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local, Tribal Governments Can Include as Required:
• Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
• Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
How to Apply for Assistance:
• Those in the county designated for assistance to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.
• The toll-free telephone numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) Monday through Sunday until further notice. Applicants registering for aid should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses.
• Application procedures for local, tribal and state governments will be explained at a series of federal/state applicant briefings with locations to be announced in the affected area by recovery officials. Approved public repair projects are paid through the state from funding provided by FEMA and other participating federal agencies.
“FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards,” the fact sheet stated.