The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that President Bush has declared a major disaster for Pennsylvania, opening the way for the use of federal disaster funds to help people recover from the effects of Tropical Depression Ivan.
Michael Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the President took the action immediately after receiving FEMA’s analysis of the state’s expedited request for federal relief. The declaration covers damage to private property from the tropical depression beginning on Sept. 17.
After the declaration, Brown designated the following 19 counties eligible for aid to stricken residents and business owners: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Centre, Clearfield, Cumberland, Dauphin, Indiana, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Northampton, Perry, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Washington, Westmoreland and Wyoming.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
In addition, Brown said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments in the 19 designated counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency services related to the storm. Federal funding also will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Brown indicated that more counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated as soon as damage assessments can be completed in the affected area. He named Thomas Davies of FEMA to coordinate federal recovery operations.
Davies added that those in Beaver County who sustained losses from Tropical Depression Frances are eligible to apply for assistance again for damage caused by Tropical Depression Ivan.
FEMA is asking the public’s assistance in managing call volume to support the agency’s effort to prioritize help to those with the greatest need. Owners of commercial properties and residents with only minor losses are urged to wait a few days before calling so those whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged can be served first. Hurricane victims with insurance coverage should contact their insurance company or agent before calling to report losses and, if necessary, to request an advance or partial payment of their settlement.
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