- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2001

Representatives of a federal agency began assessing damage to flooded D.C. homes yesterday and said people in need of aid should start receiving checks within seven to 10 days after inspections.
President Bush declared the District a federal disaster area Thursday, which makes businesses and homeowners eligible for federal aid. By Friday night, 1,207 persons had registered for assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.
FEMA dispatched between 15 and 30 officials to record damage in Northwest yesterday, which they described as their first full day in the field.
"There's no guarantee they're going to get a check," FEMA spokesman Mike Sweet said of those who suffered damage. "But for everyone who registers a claim, FEMA will make every effort to make sure an official gets out to make an assessment.
"This is a sensitive issue because everything is done on a case-by-case basis," he said. "For one person that lives right next door to another, the damage and the assessment may be completely different."
Meanwhile, a volunteer and multiagency cleanup effort continued yesterday in parts of the city hit hardest by last week's downpours. Metro, the D.C. Fire Department, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Works linked together in the effort coordinated by the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.
Jo'Ellen Gray Countee, the District's EMA spokeswoman, said about 200 volunteers showed up around the city yesterday to help clean about 450 homes.
The wheels of the cleanup were hitting the pavement at St. Martin's Catholic Church at 1908 N. Capitol St. NW. All day, volunteers used the church as a hub and assembled packages of cleaning supplies delivered by the American Red Cross. Buckets of supplies were handed out to people in need.
"We had about 40 kids show up from the Spingarn High School football team," said Cleopatra Jones, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from the neighborhood and president of the Bloomingdale Civic Organization. Bloomingdale, in Ward 5, was one of the hardest-hit areas.
"Volunteers from as far away as Richmond worked on pulling out wrecked washers and dryers. And when I say [the volunteers] worked, I'm telling you they worked.
"We still need industrial mops and brooms and a lot of manpower to make an impact, but about 40 percent of the mess has been cleaned up in this neighborhood," she said. "The main focus has been the houses of senior citizens and the disabled. Some of them lost everything externally you can't see the pain, but internally people are hurting."
One place where the volunteer cleanup made a difference yesterday was the basement of Arthur Tyler's home at 119 Seaton Place NW. Workers stripped the basement of damaged items such as furniture, collectibles and a washer and dryer.
"Everything that was in my basement is gone," said Mr. Tyler, 82, who has lived in the house since 1966. "This was the worst it's ever been."
When asked how high last week's floodwater had risen in his basement, Mr. Tyler brought his hand to his chin and joked, "only about this far."
Dan Oshaughnessy, 27, of Silver Spring arrived about 10 a.m. yesterday and volunteered to scrub Mr. Tyler's basement clean. "If it was my basement, I'd want somebody to help me out," he said.
Mr. Tyler's daughter, Renee Hevor, was appreciative of the volunteers' efforts but skeptical about what kind of federal aid people like her father might receive.
"They've done a good job providing the necessary things to clean with and getting the volunteers to focus on the senior citizens," she said. "But I'll know whether they've really done a good job when the time comes for reimbursement."
Whether people will receive federal aid "depends on the extent of the damage, how much insurance a person has and their economic situation," said Bill Lenderking, a FEMA official assessing damage near Mr. Tyler's house. "Some people are also eligible for loans."
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, FEMA officials said Thursday.
The agency has asked those who want to make a claim for aid to call 800/462-9029.


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