A federal representative was in Havre Wednesday, urging people who suffered flood damage to call a toll-free number and join the hundreds of people who already have applied for assistance.
S. George Camp, public information officer with the U. S. Small Business Adminstration, said the most important thing is for people with flood damage to register and get in the system as soon as possible.
“The quicker they do that, the quicker they can get their lives back to normal, make the repairs to their property, ” Camp said.
Federal representatives are traveling around the state to provide outreach in the counties and Indian reservations approved for individual assistance on July 27 by President Barack Obama.
Other assistance also keeps coming forward, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service setting a Sept. 30 deadline for applications to its Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Obama declared a public disaster in the state in June for flooding that occurred starting April 3, opening the gates for federal assistance in repairing flood damage to public infrastructure. The declaration includes any flood damage through July 22.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer then requested the declaration be expanded to include individual assistance, providing aid to private property and business owners as well.
The individual assistance declaration was for 16 counties and three reservations, including Hill County and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that, in the first week of accepting requests for individual assistance, some 500 people have been entered in the system and nearly a million dollars has been awarded.
That includes approval of nearly $972,000 in total housing and other needs, with more than $925,000 approved for housing expenses, including temporary rental assistance, home repair costs and assistance toward replacing destroyed homes.
FEMA also has approved more than $46,000 as "Other Needs Assistance" to cover essential disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses and damaged personal possessions.
Camp said FEMA and the SBA work very closely in areas eligible for individual assistance — FEMA refers any requests that could be covered by SBA to the agency, and, if people are not eligible for SBA programs, the administration refers them to other programs including from FEMA.
He said a key is to make people understand that the Small Business Administration’s disaster aid is for anyone.
“We don’t want them to assume it’s just for businesses, ” Camp said. “Probaby 75 to 80 percent of the loans we make are to renters and homeowners. ”
The SBA programs can help with any flood-related damages, including people who have flooding due to high water tables — like water seeping into basements, Camp, said.
The administration’s low-interest loans are available to homeowners, renters, bsuinesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations.
Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace primary residences, while homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace their personal property. Businesses also may borrow up to $2 million for any combination of property damage or economic industry, and SBA also offers working capital loans to small businesses and most private nonprofits having difficulty paying bills due to the declared disaster.
Camp said that, although most aid only is available to Hill County and Fort Belknap residents as part of the disaster, business owners in contiguous counties — including Blaine, Liberty and Chouteau — can be eligible for the economic injury loans.
Camp also said people should be cautious of people running scams. FEMA and SBA officials always will have official laminated identification cards, and never will ask for money. Officials making a follow-up call to someone in the system already should have background information on the damage, he said.
If someone is uncomfortable, they always can reschedule a meeting, he added.
“Any time you are uncomfortable with anybody there, federal people will not stay, ” Camp said.
And, he reiterated, the most important thing is for people with flood damage to get their names in the system.
FEMA recommends that registration be done at home, or where registrants have easy access to personal and financial information, by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or TTY (800) 462-7585 for people with speech or hearing impairments.
People also can register and get information on all types of assistance by going to www.DisasterAssistance.gov. The website describes over 60 assistance programs from 14 different agencies that offer assistance to disaster survivors. Registrants can also track the status of an application online.