Heights, FEMA team up to help residents

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — For the residents of the tri-county area, recovering from the aftermath of the August storm and flooding is still in progress.

Residents were encouraged to file claims with their insurance companies and through their respective cities, after the storm. The damage, however, was more severe than most expected and so was the cleanup.

President Barack Obama acknowledged the situation when he signed the Emergency Diaster Declaration for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties on Sept. 25. This allowed for residents to receive federal assistance, if they apply for it by Nov. 23.

With the federal funds available through Federal Emergency Management Agency, the public is being encouraged to apply for help. FEMA and the city of Dearborn Heights held a town meeting Thursday at the Richard A. Young Center to offer assistance and information residents.

“The purpose of this meeting and why we are dedicating this time, it’s to help our residents,” Mayor Daniel Paletko said.

FEMA along with the U.S. Small Business Administration had representatives on site to help with the application process and to answer questions.

Questions were encouraged and answered during the meeting. There were a few for which the public needed answers.

“The intent of tonight is that you’ll been able to ask us questions and be given an answer,” Paletko said. “One is, ‘Do I qualify for any type of federal assistance?’ Two, ‘What type or types of federal assistance do I qualify for and will that assistance need to be payed back?’ Third, ‘What do I need to do to apply for federal assistance?’”

Applications can be submitted in person, online through the FEMA website or over the phone with a representative. FEMA is providing both grants and loans to those who qualify, which will be awarded after applications are filled out.

An emphasis on filing out an application was evident during the meeting. Especially from Paletko at the meeting.

“You have to file an application with FEMA in order to be able to get any kind of assistance,” he said. “It’s very, very important.”

The process doesn’t have to be difficult, he said, especially with the different ways FEMA is providing access to completing an application.

The first step, for people who have insurance, is to call the insurance companies and file a claim. People without insurance can fill out the FEMA application over the phone (800-621-3362), on the website (fema.gov) or in person.

FEMA representatives will be at the John F. Kennedy Library, 24602 Van Born Road from noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 14 to 18

There will also be FEMA sign language interpreters for anyone who may need them.

There are a total of 400 state and FEMA employees working on disaster relief.

“I am very appreciative of the amount of people that FEMA and the SBA have supplied today,” Paletko said.

Next, a FEMA inspector will contact the applicants and schedule an inspection at their homes. Once at the home, inspectors will walk around and assess the damages that occurred.

If people have photos of damages or bills from items already replaced, they should have those ready for inspectors.

FEMA currently has 400 inspectors who have already completed work on than 37,000 homes.

Shortly after, applicants will be contacted or sent a letter in the mail stating wither or not they were approved for a grant. The grant money can be used without having to repay it.

There has been $42 million in grant money approved with $38 million awarded to the public so far.

Grants are given to help clean, restore and bring the affected areas back to health, such as water heaters and furnaces.

Most personal items will not be covered by FEMA, especially if they were below ground in a basement.

More than 54,000 residents have applied for assistance and 48,000 have been awarded grants.

For those personal items, there is the option of loans. The SBA offers three types of loans depending on the situation. Loans will have to paid back.

There are Home Disaster Loans for homeowners and renters to replace or repair real estate or personal property, including automobiles.

The Business Physical Disaster Loans are for businesses that need to replace damaged property as well as supplies and equipment.

The final loan, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, are designed to help small businesses and non-profit organizations keep up with their financial obligations.

A loan application can be filled out at sba.gov disaster. Questions can be asked by calling 800-659-2955.

After the loan application is filled out, an SBA inspector will examine damages. Loan approval will depend on credit history, repayment ability and collateral.

Once the grants and loans have been given, FEMA also offers information on how to fix damages properly to prevent them from reoccurring, as well as safety tips for repairs.

For more information, go to fema.gov or call 866-395-7496.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)