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Recovery aid programs have application deadlines - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Recovery aid programs have application deadlines

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Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 3:53 pm

Since a disaster declaration was approved in November, both state and federal agencies have been lining up to assist those who were affected by September flooding. However, the programs do have deadlines for making application.

Representatives from three agencies spoke to Lake County commissioners on Tuesday morning, noting these deadlines. Each spoke briefly about programs available through their agency.

Yampue Gontaye, FEMA intergovernmental affairs specialist, said she would be meeting with elected officials to keep them informed about FEMA's activities in the area. She said currently the emphasis is on encouraging people to register with FEMA, a necessary first step to be eligible for federal programs.

She also said FEMA encourages people to appeal the decision if their application for assistance is rejected. This can be done at the disaster recovery center, located at 455 S. Highland Ave. (the former Cars for Les building).

"We have staff there that can help write that appeal," Gontaye said.

Corey Williams, public information officer with the Small Business Administration (SBA), placed an emphasis on the economic injury which many have suffered as a result of the flooding and on the loan program available to businesses and nonprofits to address this. However, he also spoke more broadly about SBA programs.

"In times of disaster, the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance not only helps businesses, but also homeowners and renters," he said.

He encouraged people to apply for loans even if they don't know whether they want to accept one because there is no cost involved. Too, if they apply early and don't qualify for an SBA loan, the SBA can refer them back to FEMA for "other needs assistance" prior to the application deadline.

"The one thing we want them to do is visit the disaster recovery center," Williams said.

Regarding business loans, he said that up to $25,000 is available for building repairs and up to $25,000 is available for economic injury. He said the goal is to provide small businesses with working capital while they are recovering.

Williams noted nonprofits impacted because they can't hold annual fund-raisers or because donations are down may also qualify for SBA disaster assistance.

He said the deadline for applying for SBA disaster assistance loans is Jan. 17.

Jim Poppen, hazard mitigation officer with the state Office of Emergency Management, talked about programs which are available on a cost-sharing basis to both private individuals and governmental entities. With four disaster declarations this year and all but three counties in South Dakota affected in some way, the state will receive $9.2 million for hazard mitigation.

"One of the hot topics this year is the home relocation program," he said.

This involves both relocating a home and selling a home for demolition. Homeowners do not apply directly for this program. Instead, they must ask the county commission to sponsor their application.

Too, the grants are awarded with a 25% local match. Poppen said the local governmental entity will determine who covers that match. The county which sponsors an application is not automatically responsible for the match.

Poppen said all applications from across the state will be considered at the same time after the March deadline. A decision will be made at that time regarding the number of grants which will be awarded.

The application process is fairly complex and includes everything from an appraisal to asbestos testing if the homeowner wishes to sell the house for demolition. Shelli Gust, commission administrative officer, said the county will be referring individuals who wish to apply for this program to First District Association of Local Governments, which has the expertise to assist in preparing applications.

County Commissioner Aaron Johnson, who had attended a meeting on the hazard mitigation program earlier, noted that a homeowner could invest $2,500 in meeting application requirements only to discover the application was not approved.

Poppen emphasized that this program is different than the buyout program in the 1990s when homeowners were reimbursed for 100% of the value of their home.

"For the homeowner, this may not be the best solution for them," Poppen said.

He also spoke briefly about what would and would not be covered. If a home is moved, it will be set on a crawl space if the home originally had a crawl space. If the home had a basement, it will be set on the shell of a basement which the homeowner will be responsible for finishing.

"The grant would pay for only the existing lot that the house is sitting on now, not a new lot," Poppen said.

Poppen said that any land purchased could not be used for structures in the future, but parcels could be transferred to another governmental entity or nonprofit.

Poppen also talked about the kinds of public projects which might be funded, including increasing the size of culverts, grade raises, improved drainage and tornado safe houses.

"There are some areas in the state that are doing some hydrology studies," he noted.

The application deadline for hazard mitigation projects is March 13. Poppen said First District will be holding an informational meeting the week of Dec. 16.

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