- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) yesterday said it already has approved $800,000 in disaster-relief grants to flash-flooding victims in the District.
"Just six days after the presidential disaster declaration, the first of the checks are on the street," said FEMA spokesman William R. Linderking.
The agency that coordinates the federal response to major disasters has received about 2,000 requests for aid, phoned in to a toll-free number. As the grants are approved, checks are mailed or money is deposited in the bank accounts of flood victims by electronic transfer.
"Our inspectors have already visited about 1,000 homes and businesses, and we're actually increasing our productions each day," Mr. Linderking said.
The D.C. Office of Emergency Management estimates there are still some 500 homes and businesses that were damaged enough to benefit from federal aid, but have not applied.
"We can get the other 500 into the system," said Peter G. LaPorte, director of the agency.
The damage occurred during heavy rains Aug. 10-13, and the presidential disaster declaration was issued Thursday.
As the District's coordinator of disaster-recovery effort, Mr. LaPorte has been working closely with officials from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
"I'm particularly concerned about the churches, because they are ineligible for FEMA grants due to changes in federal rules," Mr. LaPorte said, adding that he is encouraging congregations that cannot afford thousands of dollars for cleanup to seek SBA assistance.
Yesterday, the SBA issued the first seven checks totaling $52,200 to homeowners and renters, who received low-interest loans to help cover uninsured repairs and property losses, particularly in basements flooded by a combination of raw sewage and storm-water runoff.
"It's going to be to replace carpeting, to replacing flooring, to replace some of the baseboards from foundation troubles," said SBA spokeswoman Colleen M. Hiam.
Federal guidelines allow the SBA to offer loans of up to $200,000 for repair of a damaged primary residence, and $40,000 for property damage. Loans to business and nonprofit groups can total up to $1.5 million, Miss Hiam said. While FEMA makes grants to individuals, the SBA's loans remain the best option for businesses suffering uninsured losses.
Of the estimated 1,500 applications for SBA's 3.375 percent disaster loans, only 300 were submitted on behalf of businesses.
Officials from government agencies also learned yesterday what steps they would have to take to satisfy requirements for repair of schools, libraries, roads and other damaged public facilities. The federal government picks up 75 percent of those costs.

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