FEMA offers aid to county

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An announcement made last week by the Federal Emergency Management Agency put Escambia County in a list with 46 other counties in the state affected by tornadoes during April.

Escambia County Emergency Management Director David Adams said the addition of Escambia County will offer area residents a chance to secure funds to help with rebuilding after the storms.

“The storms that came through our area on April 15 is why we have been added to the list of counties in Alabama eligible to apply for individual assistance through FEMA,” Adams said. “Any resident that suffered losses during that even should contact FEMA as soon as possible.”

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Jim Homstad, public affairs specialist with FEMA, said residents who had damage from the storms should apply as soon as possible.

“We have already taken many applications and will continue to accept applications for those affected by the storms,’ Homstad said. “We have taken four applications in Escambia County as of Sunday. We will continue to accept applications until June 27 for those claims.”

Homstad said the federal funding in Escambia County so far has been minimal, but assistance is available, even to those who might not normally qualify for assistance.

“The government is also offering emergency unemployment benefits in many cases,” Homstad said. “Typically, self-employed workers, farmers and ranchers don’t qualify for unemployment. However, in the cases affected by the April storms, those restrictions are being relaxed.”

Although FEMA funds are available to those who had losses because of the storms, Homstad said residents should not expect to be restored to original condition.

“This assistance is meant to provide funding for essential needs,” Homstad said. “FEMA does not return homeowners to their pre-disaster status. Our funding is for basic needs and to help fill in games of coverage for those uninsured or underinsured.”

In an effort to make applying for assistance more convenient, Adams said a strike team with FEMA will be in Brewton next week.

“A FEMA strike team will be in Brewton for three days next week to help individuals with assistance,” Adams said. “The group will be in the Emergency Management Agency office at the Escambia County Courthouse for those days.”

FEMA officials will be available to meet with affected residents Monday from noon to 6 p.m., and Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“They will be there to assist applicants with the documentation process and to provide other assistance as needed,” Adams said. “There will also be representatives from the Small Business Administration on hand to provide information on low interest loans.”

Adams said loans may be available to homeowners and businesses that were affected in the event.

Potential applicants should call the toll-free FEMA number to receive an identification number needed to file a claim. Applicants should bring the FEMA ID number and other documents to meet with FEMA officials next week, Adams said.

Homstad said assistance from point of application through the funding process could be as short as three weeks.

As of Sunday, Homstad said as many as 80,000 applications for assistance had been accepted by FEMA officials with more than $77 million in federal funding approved to date.

Increased assistance from FEMA as well as other federal agencies came following the deadly string of tornadoes that ripped through the central and northern portions of Alabama April 27. Homstad said applications for storm ravaged areas continue to be accepted.

To contact FEMA for a claim identification number call 1-800-621-3362 or online at www.disasterassistance.gov. No appointment is necessary during the application process in Brewton.

For more information, call the Escambia County EMA office in Brewton at 867-0232.