Lawmakers work to speed dollars to Missouri, Kansas

Friday, May 9, 2003

WASHINGTON -- When officials say they will help tornado-wrecked communities recover with federal aid, that can mean money for a place to live, home repairs, medical expenses or even the cost of a funeral service and burial.

When President Bush issued federal disaster declarations earlier this week for Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee, he granted access to a range of programs handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"President Bush recognizes the devastation caused by these storms and has committed the federal resources to help people get back on their feet," FEMA director Michael D. Brown said Thursday. "FEMA will be there every step of the way to make sure that everyone gets the assistance they need to go on with their lives as quickly as possible."

Setting up centers

FEMA, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are still setting up assistance centers to help people get aid. Congressional aides said this week their offices are fielding phone calls, and their staffs are visiting disaster sites as well.

Missouri GOP Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent are touring sites in Parkville, Pierce City and Jackson on Friday with officials from FEMA, the Small Business Administration and local governments. And Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback plans similar stops in Crawford County, Kan.

The major form of aid, for individuals and households, can provide as much as $25,000, although some forms of assistance have limits. This includes money to rent a place to live or, where rental properties can't be found, a temporary housing unit.

Also included is money for repairs to structural parts of a home; windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings, cabinetry; septic or sewage systems; well or other water systems; heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; utilities such as electrical, plumbing and gas systems, and entrances and exits, including private access roads.

The funds can also be used for blocking, leveling and anchoring of a mobile home and reconnecting or resetting its sewer, water, electrical and fuel lines and tanks.

For repairs, FEMA provides up to $5,000, beyond which homeowners must apply for Small Business Administration disaster loans for help with additional repairs.

In rare cases, FEMA pays to replace a home that was damaged by disaster, if it can be done with limited funds. Assistance from many FEMA programs requires flood insurance and compliance with current local building codes -- but FEMA does help pay for National Flood Insurance Program policies to meet these requirements.

FEMA's assistance for "other needs" is far-reaching. It includes medical and dental expenses, funeral and burial costs, repair cleaning or replacement of clothing, household furnishings and appliances, and job- and school-related supplies.

Clean-up tools, such as wet/dry vacuums, air purifiers and dehumidifiers qualify for aid. Also included are fuel, repair or replacement of vehicles or money for public transportation, and moving and storage costs.

Beyond FEMA, the Small Business Administration makes loans to homeowners, renters and business owners to repair or replace disaster-related damage. SBA also provides capital to small businesses and farm cooperatives to help with recovery.

The government also offers unemployment assistance, legal services, special tax considerations and crisis counseling.

And FEMA also helps local governments get help repairing and rebuilding buildings, roads and other facilities. In addition, FEMA provides grants to help communities make improvements to property to lessen the risk of damage from high winds and storms.


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