Disaster Victims Won't Get Enough Official Relief

By DeBose, Brian | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 21, 2001 | Go to article overview

Disaster Victims Won't Get Enough Official Relief


DeBose, Brian, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Brian DeBose

More than 3,000 disaster victims - most of them homeowners and businessmen - are finding out they won't receive nearly as much money from the federal government in disaster relief as they need to make repairs and clean up the mess left by the two-day storm that drenched the area Aug. 11 and 12.

The District, however, got a piece of good news - the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced yesterday it will widen its disaster aid to include public roads, bridges and city buildings.

"The federal government will now pay 75 percent of all damages to public property like schools and hospitals, and any transportation infrastructure needs," said FEMA spokesman Michael Sweet.

The decision came after Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) inspectors toured the city and saw cracks in bridges, poor road conditions and flooded schools and hospitals.

Since Friday, inspectors in the neighborhoods interviewed 1,507 claimants and inspected 236 homes. Not all will qualify to receive a check. The majority of those who will be mailed checks won't find more than four digits on them.

Victims of a July 12 storm in southwestern Virginia that caused severe flooding received checks that averaged about $1,500, according to FEMA records.

In one sector, 625 rural property owners were given a total of $1,319,322, an average of $2,110 per claim, to make their homes habitable. Fifteen others, who suffered greater damage, received low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Only 75 percent of the money disaster victims receive comes from FEMA. The remaining 25 percent comes from local governments in the official disaster area. In this case, that includes the D.C. government, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Alexandria and Arlington County in Virginia.

FEMA sends out the checks, then bills the local governments for their part of the tab.

Serita Sanders, 32, of the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood in Northwest, the area most severely hit by flood and sewage damage, said she hopes to get more aid from the federal agency than the $13,900 maximum they have listed for cash grants.

She filed her claim Saturday and should find out how much she will actually get within the next 10 days. …

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