Flood aid center opens at City Hall

February 19, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 11:13 a.m. Feb. 19, 2008

Federal disaster-relief agencies opened an office at City Hall yesterday as part of the ongoing effort to recover from January’s flooding.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration hope the office will serve as an information clearinghouse for flood victims seeking government disaster aid.

“Wherever there’s a need with people who have suffered damage, that’s where we want to be,” SBA communications specialist Roger Busch said.

 

Roger Busch (left) and Thomas Colgin of the U.S. Small Business Administration discuss aid available to property owners affected by January’s flooding and severe weather at the agency’s local Disaster Recovery Center. — By Warren Kagarise

Roger Busch (left) and Thomas Colgin of the U.S. Small Business Administration discuss aid available to property owners affected by January’s flooding and severe weather at the agency’s local Disaster Recovery Center. — By Warren Kagarise

 

 

Before visiting the office, disaster victims should register for FEMA aid by calling the agency toll-free at 1-800-621-3362, from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., seven days a week. An online application is available here. The registration deadline is March 31.

“We strongly urge people to register before they come here,” FEMA public affairs officer Jack Heesch said.

The office, known as a Disaster Recovery Center, will be open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. FEMA and SBA are set up in the Eagle Room, 130 E. Sunset Way.

Residents of hard-hit Snoqualmie should use the Issaquah center, officials said.

At the center, residents can discuss their aid applications with government representatives and find out the types of aid for which they qualify. A FEMA flood mitigation expert will answer questions about mold and mildew removal.

Other perks are less conventional: “They have fantastic coloring books for kids,” Heesch said.

Some homeowners and renters may be referred to SBA for disaster loans. These loans are the primary source of money to pay for repair or replacement costs not fully covered by insurance or other compensation. SBA also offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses and nonprofits.

Before applying for SBA assistance, residents should register with FEMA. Residents may apply for SBA aid at the Disaster Recovery Center or here. The registration deadline for SBA assistance is March 31 for physical damage and Oct. 30 for economic injury.

FEMA and SBA opened several temporary offices in Washington cities impacted by January’s flooding and severe winter weather. Though only a handful of people stopped by the Issaquah center within an hour of its noon opening yesterday, Busch and Heesch said turnout is typically low on the first day.

“Even in the age of computers and 800 numbers, it’s still better to come in and do this face-to-face with somebody,” Busch said.

Officials encouraged residents to visit the center even if they feel their questions are trivial or their property damage was minor.

“We always tell people, it doesn’t have to be a Katrina to be a disaster,” Busch said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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