Federal aid available to tornado victims

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County has been declared a disaster area and is eligible for federal assistance after the March 2 tornado ripped through Crittenden.

Gov. Steve Beshear received notification March 9 that President Barack Obama has authorized assistance for residents of nine more Kentucky counties, including Grant, that suffered significant damage as a result of tornadoes and severe storms.

The declaration brings the total number of counties receiving federal aid from FEMA to 16.

"It’s very important because it allows people to get assistance for living expenses, especially renters," said Rick Willoby, director of Grant County Emergency Management. "It also allows home owners to get low interest loans to rebuild. FEMA typically fills in for people who don’t have insurance. If you have needs, your primary insurance should take care of that first, but anything that they did not get covered completely, you can request FEMA assistance to help you as well."

Assistance for individuals 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.

The deadly storms and tornadoes across Kentucky caused 23 deaths and more than 300 injuries.

Willoby said he was always confident that Grant County would be approved for federal assistance based on the amount of damage received in the Crittenden area, especially the Harvesters Subdivision.

Because contiguous counties, such as Pendleton and Kenton, were approved, FEMA would have still provided financial assistance even if Grant would not have been declared a disaster area.

Willoby conducted an initial damage assessment the night the tornado hit and into next day.

Two days after the storm, a complete damage assessment was conducted that included going to each house and determining individual damages.

The reports were then sent to state emergency management on the road to being eligible for federal assistance.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired.

The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

"I would hope everybody in the county who had any damage would apply for aid," Willoby said. "It is tax dollars and you are entitled to get some of that back or at least apply for it. Especially if someone didn’t have insurance, I would definitely apply. The FEMA rep is recommending, even if you have insurance, to get your name on the list because there may be something your private insurance may not cover."

Kentucky Emergency Management urges survivors with storm damage to their residence or other property to document the damage by photographing or video taping it, if possible, and maintain a list of any repairs and keep repair receipts.

Residents also should report the damage and location to the county emergency manager, however, they must still register with FEMA to be considered for federal disaster assistance.

People who need to replace property deeds should visit the tax office Property Valuation Administrator to obtain documentation of ownership to prevent long delays in receiving eligible FEMA funds.

For public assistance, a separate report has to be filled out showing what expenses government agencies and other organizations have used in relief and clean up efforts, said Willoby.

Grant County Emergency Management will likely be the applicant for the entire county for public assistance, he said.

FEMA can re-pay police agencies, fire departments and other county agencies for overtime, which helps local government.

It will be months before county officials will know how much federal aid was given to Grant residents and agencies.

Crittenden-Mt. Zion Elementary hosted a "Tornado Relief Information Night" on March 9 for residents impacted by the devastating storm.

Organizations, including FEMA, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, provided information to victims about ways to receive assistance as they pick up the pieces from the storm damage.

With about 50 families in attendance, Willoby said he was pleased with the turn out.

"I know the FEMA rep was very impressed," he said. "He said he doesn’t see this happen in very many communities."