FEMA begins to process assistance claims

05/10/2007 1:01 AM

01/24/2008 5:15 PM

At least 495 people in Kiowa County have signed up for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA spokeswoman Dawn Kinsey said Wednesday.

That's more than a third of the county, considering there are 1,365 homeowners, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

An additional 34 people outside of Kiowa County had also signed up.

The assistance is intended to cover the cost of temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not paid for by insurance companies.

It can take up to 10 days for an inspector to examine damages and file a report, but 15 inspectors are in Greensburg to check damage before debris is hauled away.

Once a report is filed, FEMA processes the information and distributes money to eligible residents by electronic bank transfers or by mail.

Kinsey couldn't say how long that usually takes because the process varies depending on damage.

But FEMA, which has faced scrutiny in recent years for acting too slowly, has emphasized its intent to respond as swiftly as possible.

Kiowa County has received an assistance declaration, allowing local government and some nonprofits to apply for money to rebuild or repair infrastructure.

All counties in Kansas are eligible for hazard mitigation grants, which reimburse them for assisting a tornado-ravaged area. Wichita has already taken steps that will allow it to be reimbursed.

State and federal officials encourage those affected by the disaster to apply for assistance immediately by going online to www.fema.gov or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Those with speech or hearing impairments may call TTY 800-462-7585.

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