Disaster aid OK’d for Ohio tornadoes
Montgomery, Greene among 10 counties approved for federal aid.
By Chris Stewart
Staff Writer

A presidential disaster declaration that will provide federal funds for storm recovery came as a relief Tuesday to area officials concerned whether businesses, homeowners and renters hardest-hit by Memorial Day tornadoes had the ability to rebuild and replace belongings on their own.

“We are talking thousands of people,” said Debbie Lieberman, Montgomery County Commission president. “There is true poverty in some of these areas. They didn’t have insurance ... Without FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), I don’t know what we would have done.”

The disaster declaration made by President Donald Trump for 10 Ohio counties, including Montgomery and Greene, was announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday.

DeWine said while Ohioans are resilient — and proved that during the three weeks of storm cleanup — the federal designation will hasten the rebuilding of lives. 

“Your heart goes out to these individuals,” said DeWine, who asked the president for a federal disaster declaration.

“We saw people trying to put things back together.

But the assistance they are going to get from FEMA is certainly going to help them move forward.”

Those affected by tornadoes can register for FEMA assistance online now at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 800-621-3362, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Joint disaster recovery centers in affected areas will be announced as they open in coming days.

When in doubt, register for aid

FEMA programs will not duplicate damages covered by insurance, but if there’s any question a person should still register, said Leo Skinner, a FEMA spokesman.

“If you do have unmet needs after that, you may be able to reach back to FEMA for additional assistance,” he said.

It’s important to not put off signing up for assistance because the registration window lasts only 60 days, DeWine said. “Even if they don’t have a complete listing of their damages, they at least should make the initial contact,” he said.

Officials said residents should file claims with their insurance companies as soon as possible.

“People that have more damage than is covered by their insurance, or if they don’t have insurance, there are a few options they may work through to get back on the road to recovery,” Skinner said.

People affected by the tornadoes and those with more damage than covered by insurance may be eligible for the following federal programs:

■ Individual Assistance Program

■ Disaster Legal Services Program

■ Hazard Mitigation Grant Program

■ Low-interest U.S. Small Business Administration loans Once registered, FEMA inspectors review damage and talk to the claimants.

A person could be provided funds in as few as three to five days after an inspection, Skinner said.

“It’s sooner rather than later,” Skinner said.

Disaster assistance can include money for rental assistance, repairs and other property losses not covered by insurance, Skinner said.

Help for businesses offered, too

The disaster declaration also means low-interest loans will be made available to businesses affected by the tornadoes.

“This does look like the declaration we were looking for,” said Holly Allen, marketing director for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Like individuals, Allen encourages businesses to apply for assistance.

“Even if you don’t think you need it,” she said. “If you are approved for a loan, you don’t have to take the money, but it at least opens up options and opportunities for you down the road if you find you need it.”

“We’re essentially looking at low-interest loan assistance for our businesses, whether they had physical damage or a loss of productivity because they were out of power or out of water for a period of time,” Allen said.

Lieberman noted the devastation of several businesses in Harrison Twp. and along North Dixie Drive.

Recovery work expected today

FEMA personnel are already in Columbus planning a response and will begin work locally as early as today. Joint disaster recovery centers will open within days where people can meet face-to-face with caseworkers, according to FEMA.

A record-breaking 21 tornadoes hit the state on Memorial Day night through the next morning, including 15 in this region.

Skinner said it was hard still to put a dollar amount on damages, but a preliminary joint assessment by FEMA and the SBA showed rebuilding is beyond the ability of the state and the counties and municipalities hit by the tornadoes.

A preliminary damage assessment the first week of June, by FEMA, SBA and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, turned up 942 homes and buildings that were either destroyed or significantly damaged and 837 homes and buildings with minor damage or slight damage.

Montgomery County commissioners and the Montgomery County office of Emergency Management will meet this morning to discuss longterm tornado recovery efforts with local government representatives, businesses, faith-based groups, nonprofits and others.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2442 or Chris.Stewart@coxinc.com.


Sign up now online at www. disaster assistance. gov or call 800-621- 3362, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Joint disaster recovery centers in affected areas will be announced as they open in coming days.