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Friday, July 11, 2014

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT GETTING AID

BY FRED MANN
The Wichita Eagle

State and federal agencies said they are doing all they can to speed assistance to Greensburg residents who lost their homes and possessions to last week's tornado.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has signed a number of executive orders waiving requirements to obtain unemployment insurance, banking services and state records.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency says checks already are being issued to some people who lost their homes. FEMA inspectors have been in Greensburg since a few days after the storm.

Once a storm victim applies for aid with FEMA and is approved, the checks are mailed, says Amanda Johnson, public information officer for FEMA's regional office in Kansas City.

"It's moving along very quickly with this town because of the devastating need and extent of the damage," she says. "It's hard to give a general timeline because there's so many types of assistance."

Here are answers to questions about FEMA aid, FEMA trailers and more.

How do I apply for federal aid?

Call FEMA at 800-621-3362, or visit www.fema.gov. Hearing- or speech-impaired applicants can call 800-462-7585.

The toll-free numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Or, go to the temporary City Hall in Greensburg.

After you register with FEMA, it will connect you with the U.S. Small Business Adminstration to apply for an SBA loan.

You must do this even if you're not a business owner. That will help determine what kind of aid you're eligible for.

What information will I need to provide when I apply to FEMA?

A current phone number where you can be reached, your address at the time of the tornado and the address where you're staying now.

You also will need to give your Social Security number (if available), a general list of damages and losses you suffered, the name of your insurance company or agent and policy number, general financial information, and bank account coding if you want direct deposit.

What kind of help can I get from FEMA?

Temporary housing units, and grants to help pay for rental housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other aid programs.

If I have insurance, can I still apply for aid?

FEMA recommends it. You may be underinsured or have more needs after you settle with your insurance company. Insurance doesn't cover many things related to a disaster like this.

FEMA also recommends that you contact your insurance agent quickly if you haven't done it yet. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance.

How can I check the status of my application?

Go to www.fema.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or, for the hearing- or speech-impaired, 800-462-7585.

FEMA has five trailers for temporary housing waiting outside Greensburg. Is that all we're getting?

No, FEMA says it has 50 more trailers on standby in Amarillo, Texas. They will be sent as soon as there's a place for them in town.

Johnson says more trailers and mobile homes are available as needed. She says FEMA has as many trailers and mobile homes as the town will require.

Who can get one of these trailers or mobile homes?

You are eligible for housing assistance from FEMA in the disaster area if:

• You have filed for insurance benefits and the damage to your property is not covered, or your insurance settlement is insufficient.

• The home in the disaster area is where you usually live and where you were living at the time of the disaster.

• You are not able to live in the home now or your home requires repairs due to damage from the disaster.

Who will get them first?

If you live in a shelter and have no other place to stay right now, you'll be at the top of the list over those who are staying with friends or relatives, Johnson says.

But people who are staying with friends and relatives should apply, as well.

How big are the trailers?

They have two bunk beds, one larger bed and a kitchen table that folds down into a bed. They can sit at the location of your old house while you're rebuilding, although the town plans to keep them at a central location at first.

What about the mobile homes?

They are larger, with two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. They are meant to stay in parks or on larger pieces of land.

What other housing help is available?

The USDA Rural Development Administration has a family housing program that offers apartments for people to live in. Tornado victims will be put at the top of the list due to the limited supply of available apartments.

To find out where these apartments are and to apply for occupancy under the program, call 800-338-5546 or 785-271-2700.

FEMA doesn't duplicate insurance benefits, but money is available to homeowners to repair damage in a primary residence not covered by insurance.

Money also is available to homeowners to replace their home if it isn't covered by their insurance.

Contact FEMA at the numbers and Internet address given above, or go to the temporary Greensburg City Hall.

Does the state provide any housing assistance?

The Kansas Housing Resources Corp. is providing aid for reconstruction.

It has joined with the Ford County Housing Authority to provide families affected by the storm with rental assistance and security/utility deposits for six months.

Eligible families must earn 60 percent or below of the area median income, or $29,880 for a family of four in Kiowa County.

It's also providing down payment and closing cost assistance for families who wish to buy existing homes in Kiowa County. The KHRC is waiving the first-time homebuyer requirement and the homeowner investment of 2 percent. It's increased the subsidy amount to 20 percent of the purchase price up to a maximum of $25,000.

KHRC also will provide down payment and closing cost assistance to families who want to build new owner-occupied housing in Greensburg.

Those families must have income at or below 120 percent of the state median -- $77,915 for a family of four.

For more information, call the KHRC at 800-752-4422.

What other federal help is available?

FEMA can provide money for rent payments for temporary housing, grants for replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance, grant money to replace personal property and money to help with dental, medical, funeral, transportation and other disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

Where do I go for more immediate assistance, like food and clothing?

A one-stop center has been set up at Barclay College in Haviland. You can get assistance here from the Kansas Department of Revenue, the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

FEMA, the SBA and other federal agencies also have information available there.

If you need Red Cross assistance and can't go to the center, call 866-GET-INFO

My job was wiped out by the tornado. How soon will I get my unemployment benefits from the state?

Right away. Normally it would take a week, but Sebelius on Friday signed an order eliminating the wait for workers in storm-affected counties, including Kiowa, Barton, Edwards, Phillips, Pratt and Stafford.

I lost my business. What help is available for me?

The SBA makes loans available up to $1.5 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.

Contact FEMA to apply, and it will refer you to the SBA.

Do I have to pay interest on my property taxes, even though I don't have my property anymore?

Sebelius on Friday signed an order for storm victims waiving interest that would normally accrue on 2006 second-half real and personal property taxes that are due by May 10 but can't be paid on time.

Where else can I get information?

A hotline has been established for Greensburg area residents to get information about emergency efforts and city plans: 620-723-3134 or 3075.

Information also is available on the radio at AM 1610, the Greensburg Public Information Channel.

In addition, LSI Corp. employees have set up a text-messaging alert system for residents. Subscriptions are free, but regular charges and fees from cell phone providers will apply.

To subscribe, text "RANGER" to 25827. To unsubscribe, text "STOP" to the same number.

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