Tornado recovery aid deadline near
Homeowners must apply for free help with rebuilding by Aug. 1.
Southern Ohio District Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer Nan Hottle replaces siding on a house on Troy Street that was damaged by the 2019 Memorial Day tornado.
By Chris Stewart
Staff Writer

DAYTON — Time is running out for homeowners whose properties were damaged by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes to get free assistance with rebuilding or repairs not covered by insurance.

Property owners may be eligible for help from the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group, but the deadline to apply is Aug. 1.

“We have teams and we have resources that we are deploying now. For us to do that effectively, we really need to understand the universe of work that still needs to be done in order to help the region recover,” said Laura Mercer, the group’s executive director. “We’ve established this deadline … so we can properly allocate resources and schedule work.”

People can call United Way’s Helplink number at 2-1-1 before the deadline to see if they are eligible to enter the disaster case management system and connect with a disaster recovery case manager. Individuals can also call 937-225-3000.

The disaster case management system has taken in 1,283 total cases to meet needs small to great. Of the 394 open cases, 213 are homeowners, of which 147 — or 69% — still require assistance with home repair and reconstruction.

More than a year after the storm, the helpline fielded 111 calls from mid-May through Wednesday, a number that demonstrates people are still in need, Mercer said.

Since the tornadoes, the value of donated material goods, food, shelter, volunteer hours and financial support aiding the recovery is more than $10 million, according to the recovery group.

A vast majority — 95% — of the cases came from Montgomery County households where a record night of tornadoes caused the most destruction and where many people had needs before the storm, said Mercer.

The handful of remaining cases are from Greene, Mercer and Miami counties.

“Montgomery County got hit the hardest in terms of the direct path, and then some of it is just income level,” she said.

Mercer said the coronavirus pandemic put travel on hold for some out-of-state volunteer groups and added additional constraints for those now on the ground.

“They’re not sharing tools,” she said. “There are all sorts of precautions that we’re having to take because of COVID that we wouldn’t be in normal circumstances.

So that’s probably made work a little more uncomfortable.”

Despite the pandemic, Brethren Disaster Ministries pulled into town earlier this week with tool trailers and regional volunteers to tackle larger projects — starting work Monday on a two-story house on Valley Street in Dayton.

The Brethren group is expected to be in the region for as long as two years, working mainly in Old North Dayton and Harrison Twp., Mercer said. The group also wheeled a housing trailer and shower trailer into town from out of state.

The recovery operations group set up the former Memorial Presbyterian Church on Smithville Road to house the Brethren volunteers. Due to the pandemic, they have yet to overnight there but are meeting at the church to coordinate construction and get daily temperature checks, Mercer said.

The recovery group’s construction manager will be in the field with Mennonite Disaster Services to review jobs in Trotwood, where that national volunteer group will spend a year or more on rebuilding efforts.

But smaller out-of-state volunteer groups expected to cycle in this summer for a week or two have been delayed, Mercer said.

“We’re okay if they wait until fall,” she said. “We’ve been able to leverage contractors and we’ve been focusing only on external work to minimize exposure.”

Montgomery County homeowners impacted by tornado damage have another deadline looming to apply for property tax relief.

The county is taking applications until Aug. 23 to file a complaint with the Board of Revision to be eligible for a partial refund in the property taxes they pay this year, according to Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith. The deadline was extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.