Requests for assistance in repairing flood damage are going out to the federal government, and the Hill County DES coordinator said some money already is coming back in response.
“(The federal disaster officials) are already getting back to people who have called in or registered online, ” DES Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning. “A few have notified me they have received funding. They were very pleased. ”
He added that FEMA will set up a Havre office from Sunday through Tuesday of next week to help people with the process.
President Barack Obama approved June 17 Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s request that the state be declared a federal disaster area due to heavy flooding that occurred in the state starting April 3, and continuing through July 22. Hill, Blaine and Chouteau counties and Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations were included in that declaration.
That declaration allowed the federal government to help pay for repairs to public infrastructure damaged in the flooding.
On July 27, he approved Schweitzer’s request that individual assistance — help for owners of private property and businesses — also be included. Hill County and the Fort Belknap reservation were included in that amendment.
FEMA reported this morning that as of close of business Saturday, 84 people from Hill County had registered to apply for individual assistance, with $146,000 approved so far. From Fort Belknap, 63 people had registered and $133,000 was approved.
Statewide, about 1,600 people have registered with FEMA with $3.6 million in assistance approved.
Parenteau said work also is progressing on the public assistance in Hill County, still reeling from damage that led to a presidential disaster declaration in the county and on the Rocky Boy reservation last year.
“Hopefully, we’ll have some repairs starting out in the park soon for last year so we can start on this year’s, ” he said.
Parenteau also said he still has some disaster kits for people who are having problems with mold. They can contact him in the Hill County Courthouse at 265-5481 to ask about the kits, he said.
“I can give them some tools to help with that, to help alleviate that, ” he said.
Parenteau said he had talked to 61 people who had suffered damage from the flooding before the individual assistance was approved. With that approval, people then needed to register directly with FEMA to start the assistance process, and he does not know how many people have registered.
“From that point on, its a private matter between individuals and FEMA, ” Parenteau said.
He said it is crucial that anyone who suffered damage to property or businesses due to the water contact FEMA, either by telephone or online.
He said the response is very quick.
For individual assistance, the aid may be in grants or low-interest long-term loans.
FEMA is sending out letters and packets to people who have registered.
The letter either explains that the registrant will receive assistance and how the money should be spent or what the registrant needs to do next to become eligible for assistance, the federal agency said in a press release.
“Anyone who receives a letter from FEMA should read that document thoroughly and carefully," Ed Tinsley, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services administrator, said in the release. “The letter is not the end of the process. It provides what steps are necessary to move you along in the process. ”
If the letter is a denial, there are still steps people can take.
“Every registrant has the right to appeal a FEMA decision, ” said Federal Coordinating Officer Doug Mayne. “When you do so, you are asking us to review your case again, and we will gladly do that. ”
The release said some common reasons registrations are considered incomplete are:
• More information is needed on insurance coverage. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments. If registrants can show the need for assistance to cover losses not covered by insurance, an appeal may be successful.
• The applicant did not sign the required documents.
• Additional personal information is needed.
•More documentation is needed to show the identity of the registrant or that the damaged property was his or her primary residence at the time of the disaster.
• The registrant or the property cannot be found. If FEMA officials can’t contact the applicant, the application may be denied.
Information on how and where to file an appeal is included in the “Help After a Disaster” booklet included with FEMA letters. If, after the registrant reviews the guide, he or she decides to appeal, the appeal letter must be submitted within 60 days of the date on the FEMA letter. Registrants should keep all correspondence and documentation for their records.
Parenteau said FEMA will be setting up its local disaster assistance office, as it has been in other areas around the state.
The center will be open in the National Guard Armory on 2nd Street West from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m., and will be open those hours from Sunday, Aug. 28, through Tuesday, Aug. 30, Parenteau said.
“They will be setting up the disaster assistance center for people who have questions or would rather talk to someone face to face rather than on the phone or using the Internet, ” he said.
FEMA registration line for the Montana flood disaster: (800) 621-FEMA (3362), TTY (800) 462-7585 for people with speech or hearing impairment.
People also can register and get information on all types of assistance by going to www.DisasterAssistance.gov.