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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Officials study federal aid for victims of July storms

BY ERIC LUND
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Additional federal dollars could still make their way to local government to help improve drainage and offset costs from this summer's storms, but it's still unclear whether federal disaster declarations will be used to provide relief to residents who had damage from flooding other than that on June 21-23.

Ohio Emergency Management Agency and other officials are examining the possibility of extending the federal disaster declaration made for June 21-23 storm damage in six northern Ohio counties, including Lucas, to cover subsequent storms, but Tom Barnhiser, acting director of Lucas County EMA, called making the declaration able to cover the July 4, July 12, and July 14 storms "a long shot."

"What we're looking at is a couple of different options to see whether or not we could increase the disaster period" or get more disaster declarations, said C.J. Couch, Ohio EMA spokesman. "The discussion is ongoing."

Steve Katich, staff director for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), said the National Weather Service could declare the storms part of the same system, which could cause FEMA to extend the federal disaster declaration to provide federal aid for residents' expenses from the July flooding.

He said an extended declaration also could open up aid for local governments that previously was unavailable because the June 21-23 storm damage alone did not reach the qualifying threshold.

Bill Halsey, Lucas County EMA director, previously told The Blade that the qualifying amount for local government aid has a per capita basis, with Lucas County needing about $1.5 million in flood damage.

If the June 21-23 federal declaration can't be extended, another option would be getting separate declarations for the July storms.

Mr. Katich and Mr. Barnhiser said that is unlikely because the damage was not extensive enough.

In addition, Toledo could see money to improve drainage through a federal hazard mitigation grant that would be used to reduce the chances of further flooding.

City, county, state, and federal officials will meet later this week for an informational meeting on the grant program, Mr. Barnhiser said. The grant amount is not known, but he said engineering projects can reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Also, FEMA and Ohio EMA officials today will begin evaluating the impact of the June 21-23 storms on local governments in seven northern Ohio counties. Depending on the results, city and county governments could be reimbursed for some money spent, according to the office of Gov. Bob Taft.

In addition, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and representatives from the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross asked yesterday for increased donations to the organization to help offset expenditures for flood-victim aid. To date, the Red Cross has spent more than $80,000 from the national Disaster Relief Fund on flood cleanup, helped more than 80 families, and distributed about 1,300 cleanup kits.

Tim Yenrick, executive director of the local Red Cross, said donations will be used to reimburse the national fund that is used to cover about 70,000 emergencies - such as natural disasters and fires - annually.

Contact Eric Lund at:

elund@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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