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Property owners should report flood damage to municipal officials

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

Property owners in areas affected by last week's flooding are still cleaning up and looking for help.

Ruth Miller with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in Harrisburg said there are two different avenues for aid available — Small Business Administration loans and Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

“In order for businesses (in a flooded area) to apply, there need to be 25 or more businesses and residences damaged with uninsured losses of at least 40 percent,” she said.

For example, if one has $10,000 in damage, then at least $4,000 must be uninsured.

“In order to get an SBA loan, you must prove you are able to pay back the loan,” she said.

The FEMA assistance comes in two types: individual assistance and public assistance. Miller said public assistance would be that given to townships, libraries and fire companies.

For the aid to be given, a federal disaster declaration must be made.

She said preliminary damage assessments are ongoing. Once the preliminary assessments are finished, Miller said, PEMA will take a look at the damage and cost totals.

“If the commonwealth totals exceed $17.4 million, we can request a federal disaster declaration for public assistance. Public assistance is for municipal, county and state governments and entities that provide governmental-type services.”

For example, a municipality could count damage to township property such as roads as bridges and for the cost of using heavy equipment and overtime pay.

“Each county must meet its own threshold to be included in the federal disaster declaration,” she added. “For example, Fayette County's threshold is $471,290.70. It's possible that Fayette County could meet or exceed their county threshold, but if the commonwealth overall doesn't total at least $17.4 million, there is no Public Assistance disaster declaration.”

Miller said there are no thresholds for individual assistance. An individual assistance declaration is based on the level of damage and FEMA's determination of need. If an individual assistance declaration is received, homeowners and renters can get grants of approximately $31,000.

Miller said homeowners with insurance should still report their damages to their local municipality. Those damage figures can be added together with the uninsured damages for the county and state totals. For example, anyone with damage in Dunbar should report the damage totals to Dunbar Borough, she said. Reporting the damage might help their neighbors get federal aid, Miller said.

If the strong storms forecast for today cause more flooding, that damage generally would be considered as separate events, according to Miller. The National Weather Service would determine if they are separate or related.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh has issued a flash flood watch that is in effect through late Wednesday.

The National Weather Service said that the additional heavy rain from the scattered showers and thunderstorms could cause localized flash flooding of creeks and streams.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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