USA — Federal and state assistance topped $13.6 million in 2008 for residents who suffered in the November wildfires in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties.
Assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because of the presidential major disaster declaration. The U.S.Small Business Administration (SBA), the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) and the CaliforniaDepartment of Social Services also are providing assistance.
“The assistance total will be climbing daily with the new year as more people register with FEMA and more applications are processesed,” said Mark Neveau, federal coordinating officer. “By design, most of the money to help peoplerecover is in the form of SBA low-interest disaster assistance loans to homeowners, renters and businesses.”
As of the end of 2008, SBA had approved 84 loans for a total of $11,366,800.
FEMA grants are much more limited in scope, but do not have to be repaid like SBA loans. Also, they are not taxed as income nor do they affectSocial Security benefits. So far, FEMA has approved $2,285,103 for 352 households.
For people who still have unmet needs after receiving the maximum FEMA grant ($30,300), a referral will be made to the California Department of Social Services for consideration of the State Supplemental Grant Program (SSGP), where up to an additional$10,00 grant may be available.
“California’s supplemental grant program has provided $130,000 to 13 households as of the year end,” said Tom Maruyama, deputy state coordinating officer.
So far, 2,251 persons have registered with FEMA for assistance, which automatically registers them with Cal EMA. Many are insured and not immediately eligible for FEMA assistance until after they have completed settlement with their insuror. If atthat point they have uninsured losses, they can ask FEMA to reconsider their application.
To be considered for FEMA assistance, including uninsured losses, persons must be registered with FEMA before the registration deadline for this disaster, January 20. They can register at FEMA’s toll-free line,1-800-621-3362 (FEMA),TTY1-800-621-7585. Online registration and application status also is available at the new federal disaster registration website, www.disasterassistance.gov. Thatcomprehensive multi-agency site also can be reached through its link at www.fema.gov.
FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.