- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

D.C. residents who have been struggling to cope with flooded basements, ruined carpets and sewage-soaked homes got a helping hand from President Bush yesterday when he declared the District a disaster area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will take over the relief effort aimed at helping D.C. residents swamped by the heavy rains that drenched the city over the weekend. The emergency management agency immediately set up two hot-line numbers — 800/462-9029 and 800/462-7585 — for D.C. residents to call and file claims.
A public infrastructure assessment team will conclude its two-day evaluation today, said D.C. Disaster Recovery Manager Steve Charvat.
He said that the city should receive word soon from FEMA on whether it will qualify for funding to repair roads, bridges, schools and other publicly used property damaged by the flooding.
"I will make further attempts to obtain public assistance funds to repair our infrastructure needs," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting representative in Congress.
"What is available right now are individual and family assistance and assistance for small businesses provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration," said FEMA spokesman Carl Suchocki.
Under the individual and family assistance programs, flood victims can receive funding from FEMA for temporary housing —three months for homeowners and one month for renters — initially, which can be extended after a second review.
"Grants for minimal emergency repairs for damages not covered by insurance, personal property, medical and funeral expenses in the amount of $2,500 will be available on a need basis," Mr. Suchocki said.
Residents such as Barbara Rasnake, owner of Treasures, a gift shop on 17th Street Northwest that was flooded with sewage, and Assane Konti, the director of Kankouran Dance Co., which had similar problems, can apply for low-interest loans up to $1.5 million from the Small Business Administration.
"For me, that will be a great help because I have to send all of my instruments to Senegal, West Africa, to be repaired and order new costumes to replace those that were destroyed, all of which are handmade," Mr. Konti said.
"Residents should expect a 20- to 30-minute interview on their disaster needs when they call the claims hot line and will receive a case number that FEMA will track them by," Mr. Charvat said.
The city will have to provide 25 percent of all government money spent for services, he said.
Joseph M. Allbaugh, director of FEMA, made the announcement yesterday at a ceremony during which the agency presented a reimbursement check to Mr. Williams and D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few for the fire department's efforts in putting out a blaze at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"I am deeply grateful to President Bush and FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh for their quick approval of our request for assistance after last weekend's terrible storms, said Mr. Williams. "I urge affected residents and business owners to act quickly and apply for disaster assistance in the form of grants and low interest loans."
The D.C. Emergency Management Agency received more than 3,000 calls from residents with minor to severe flood damage.

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