- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

Federal and local emergency funds hardly made a dent in the massive cleanup bill left after flash floods tore through the District in August, say residents and officials in neighborhoods hit hardest by the floods.
"I'm not satisfied," said Linda Sneed, a resident of the 100 block of U Street Northwest. "I haven't received a dime and I lost a lot. I lost a brand new car and my daughter lost her Mustang when water went all the way up into the glove compartment."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency fielded more than 3,600 requests for aid from D.C. residents in the weeks following the Aug. 10-13 flash floods, said agency spokesman Butch Ducote. Many requests were made by people with incomes large enough to qualify for low-interest loans, he said.
In all, 433 residents with incomes too low to obtain the cheap loans qualified instead for grants totaling $831,000, Mr. Ducote said.
As of late September, FEMA officials said, more than $500,000 in grant money had been sent out as checks to 257 victims. The whereabouts of the remaining 176 checks are not clear. FEMA officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Twenty-five percent of the $831,000 in grant money comes from D.C. government agencies.
Officials from the District's emergency management agency say they can't speak for the flood victims, but the agency is satisfied with the assistance FEMA offered.
"I have been told that all the money has been distributed," said Jo'Ellen Gray Countee, the District's emergency agency spokeswoman. "FEMA did a good job."
Mrs. Sneed, who estimates she lost $25,000 worth of goods in the floods, said FEMA officials first told her she was ineligible for a grant and advised her to apply for a low-interest loan. They then told her she could not afford the loan and she should apply for a grant, she said. When she applied, officials told her she was eligible for $201 in damages.
"I applied for everything and they came and surveyed the property and I got nothing," she said. "I need to get a car and I can't afford it."
Cleopatra Jones, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from the Bloomingdale neighborhood, said "the District was not prepared to deal with this."
"Twenty-five percent from the D.C. government is peanuts when you think of the families that were effected by this," she said.
"What is $1,400 for a person that has $80,000 worth of damage to their house? What is that? What are people going to do with that? What about people who lost a furnace in their basement and now winter's coming?"
Miss Countee said, "It's not my job to think about whether these people got the money promised them. I would not presume to speak for the residents of Bloomingdale or Ledroit Park."
But from her perspective, she said, the people at the district's emergency agency and FEMA workers put in long hours to finish the job.
Some residents of the Bloomingdale neighborhood insist that the heart of the problem is the city government, particularly the D.C. Water and Sewage Authority.
"It's quite obvious for myself and a lot of people on my block that [the flood damage] was the responsibility of [the sewer authority]," said Lenford Lloyd, who owns a house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood at 126 Thomas St. NW.
"In the first few days after the flood, WASA so obviously appeared to take responsibility. Then all of a sudden the mayor claimed a disaster area and WASA receded into the shadows," he said.
"The water that damaged my house didn't come in from the outside, it came in from the inside, through the sewer pipe. I had raw sewage in my basement," Mr. Lloyd said.
"When the city realized they could get federal disaster funds, they could shade their responsibility of what happened."
Miss Jones said local and federal agencies "forgot about us, but we're gonna surface."

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