Seward: State To Offer Flood Aid Package

James L. Seward

June 30, 2006

State Senator James L. Seward today said a $35 million flood relief plan announced by the governor today will be critically important to the flood-ravaged areas of his district. The plan, announced by the governor today, includes help for local governments, families and businesses.

Of the $35 million, $25 million will fund assistance for individuals and families and $10 million will fund what is usually local governments' share of two key FEMA relief programs -- public infrastructure and hazard mitigation.

The $25 million for the state individual and family grant program offers individuals, families, and small businesses grants of up to $5,000 for documented flood losses not covered by insurance or other government programs.

The $10 million portion will fund the localities’ share of costs under two federal programs: the Federal Emergency Management Authority’s (FEMA) Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Programs.

Typically, the FEMA program reimburses localities for 75 percent of the costs to repair public infrastructure damaged by major disasters, with the state and local community splitting the remaining 25 percent. Under the state's plan, the state would pay the customary 12.5 percent local share, providing needed budgetary relief for municipalities coping with the cost of flood damage.

In addition the state will assume the local share of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program, which traditionally has localities paying 25 percent of the costs of projects designed to mitigate future disasters. The state’s disaster relief program seeks to build on the numerous federal programs already in place to help those affected by floods or other disasters. Upon the declaration of a disaster, FEMA dispatches workers to set up a field office to oversee and coordinate response and recovery efforts. Seward has asked the state emergency management office (SEMO) to open assistance centers in his district.

Federal aid can include:

Disaster housing – local resources are utilized to house individuals and families whose residences have been destroyed or heavily damaged by floods. This assistance is available for up to 18 months, and also includes funds for housing repairs and other actions to make homes habitable.

Disaster grants – available to help meet serious disaster-related needs such as the replacement of personal property, transportation, or medical expenses, not covered by insurance or other aid programs.

Low-interest disaster loans – homeowners and renters are eligible to apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration to assistance to cover uninsured property losses. The loans are available for the repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing or other damaged personal property. Businesses also are eligible for property losses and economic impacts.

Other disaster aid programs – programs such as crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security, or Veteran’s benefits are made available to those in need. Various state and local assistance program are also available.

"Record-keeping is vital," Seward said. "People should inventory and document their losses, assign values, call their insurance companies, take photographs, and have information ready to go if we secure federal assistance. While we don't know the extent of assistance that may be available under a presidential declaration, people should be ready with their information."