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Published: Saturday, 7/8/2006

FEMA says 3,200 seek damage aid after storms

Since six northern Ohio counties received presidential disaster declarations Sunday, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials estimate 3,200 residents have applied for assistance.

Residents still bailing out from recent storms have 60 days to apply for FEMA grants, and can begin the process by filing a claim at www.fema.gov or calling 1-800-621-3362.

Gene Romano, a FEMA spokesman, said that within a week of when a resident files a claim, a FEMA inspector will be dispatched to examine the property. Then, it will take another week for eligible renters and homeowners to receive an aid check.

Other types of aid, such as low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, also could be made available.

Federal aid includes grants of up to $5,200 for temporary housing and $26,500 in other money.

"The difference between the grants and the loans is a loan can replace virtually everything that you lost. A grant doesn't necessarily do that," Mr. Romano said, adding that grants cover only "essential needs."

FEMA will determine the kind of aid for which recipients are eligible, he said, and will base decisions on factors including home insurance coverage, damage to homes, whether homes are still habitable, and whether people have other needs, such as health care, transportation, or utilities.

In Lucas County alone, 750 homes were affected by the storms, said Tom Barnhizer, deputy director of the county's Emergency Management Agency.

He said over 200 had minor damage, 125 had major damage, and two were destroyed.

Buildings with some flooding can be classified as "affected," while minor and major damage assessments require several feet of water.

To be destroyed, a building needs at least four feet of water on the first floor, or two feet if it has a basement, according to federal guidelines.

The City of Toledo also will be looking into the cause of flood

ing in the Crawford Street neigh-borhood - one of the hardest hit areas - and making short- term improvements to avoid future flooding.

Plans include improving the sewer system, cleaning Shantee Ditch to increase its drainage ability, and investigating other possible fixes.

Meanwhile, FEMA has opened its regional recovery center at Norwalk High School to work with residents and businesses that also have filed claims.

The office will be open from noon to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow.

Beginning Monday, the hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The office is set up to serve claimants in Huron, Sandusky, and Erie counties.

Officials say the office is designed to aid people who already filed claims.

- Eric Lund

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