The last Dayton-area Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Center established after the Memorial Day tornadoes closed Friday. Emergency officials continue to encourage anyone affected by the storms to start a claim with FEMA before the final Tuesday, Sept. 3 deadline.
More than 6,000 people have so far applied for disaster aid, FEMA reports. The agency recently extended the original August deadline to allow more time for people across the tornado zone to apply.
But, based on the latest damaged-property and homeowner data, says Montgomery County’s Tom Kelley, only a fraction of the county's residents who may be eligible for FEMA grants and low-interest United States Small Business Administration recovery loans have done so.
He estimates hundreds of people displaced by the disaster are still searching for permanent housing.
“We know that those people have either moved on with a relative moved into some other facility or they've just come up with other alternatives," he says. "Those are people that are primed for a FEMA application to receive assistance.”
Kelley says many people are struggling to find new housing for their families that they can afford, and some may be living in badly damaged, or even condemned, properties.
He says the county has also heard from some residents who are confused by the federal government's emergency grant process.
It's important for people to read any correspondence they receive from FEMA carefully. Letters that appear at first to be denials may, in fact, be asking for further documentation before a claim can be considered, says FEMA spokesman Gerard Hammink. And, applicants who are, in fact, ultimately denied have the right to appeal.
What's critical is that as many people as possible begin the FEMA Individual Assistance registration process, Hammink says.
"FEMA encourages people to register even if they have insurance, and to double-check whether they could benefit from any other assistance, especially as far as loans from the SBA go. If you register you have your name and household in the system and then you can consider applying for one of those loans after the deadline if you see that you have that need for your recovery efforts," he says.
Gov. Mike DeWine's request for FEMA Public Assistance, which would help reimburse hard-hit counties for costs associated with the tornado emergency response and storm-cleanup, is working its way through the approval process.
"FEMA Public Assistance people here are working with state and local officials to evaluate counties' requests, their damage assesments, to determine how much grant money is given out for what projects," he says.
For information on how to apply and open a claim for federal disaster assistance before the deadline, call 1-800-621-FEMA, or visit FEMA's website.
As of August 29, FEMA reports approving the following in disaster grants: