Disaster Assistance now available

Published 3:16 pm Friday, May 1, 2009

People who sustained losses or damage in one of the counties declared a federal disaster area after recent severe weather and flooding, including Decatur County, may be eligible for federal and state disaster aid.

A Disaster Resource Center has been set up at the Decatur County Fairgrounds, located at 1213 Vada Road in Bainbridge. The hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

In addition to Decatur County, Baker, Early, Grady, Miller and Mitchell counties are also included among the counties covered by the presidential disaster declaration.

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Organizations offering assistance at the building include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Emergency Management Agencies from Decatur and Miller counties, the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS), the Georgia Department of Labor, representatives from the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s Office, the Decatur County Public Health, the Georgia Legal Services Program and the Small Business Association.

“We’ve seen a steady influx of citizen victims from Miller and Decatur counties,” said Jeff Braswell with GEMA.

Representatives from FEMA are talking to victims about grant services they may be eligible to receive.

The Department of Labor is providing information on assistance they provide for people who were unable to work as a result of the disaster.

The Decatur County Public Health representatives have been providing information on safe cleanup and well water safety.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s Office representatives are providing information about insurance claims, answering questions and hearing victim’s concerns.

More disaster assistance

For more information, to apply by phone or to check on your claim, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Speech-or-hearing impaired persons can call TTY 1-800-462-7585. People may also apply online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

Persons without a computer or Internet access are reminded that public libraries and Bainbridge College Library on Main Campus and at its Early County Site in Blakely provide Internet access.

Applicants are asked to have the following information available when they call: a phone number, Social Security number, current mailing address, address of the damaged property, brief description of damages, any applicable insurance information, such as agent and policy number, and bank account information to speed up disaster assistance with direct deposit.

Disaster assistance is not taxable, and officials encourage people to register for assistance even if they are insured because insurance coverage may not be adequate and some damage may not appear until later. Disaster assistance covers a wide range of losses, including structural damage or repair and damage or loss of essential personal property, such as a major appliance or medical equipment (wheelchairs, etc.)

Types of assistance available

Forms of assistance for affected individuals and families can include: rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable; grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional; grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other programs; unemployment payments for up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits; low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance; loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private non-profit organizations of all sizes that have been affected by disaster; loans of up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses; and other relief programs.