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FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Great Falls

FEMA sets up Disaster Recovery Center in Great Falls

Great Falls Tribune

Kristen Cates

Published 8/25/2011


To further their efforts to get more flooding victims registered for assistance, two federal agencies have set up shop for the next two days at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration will be located in the lobby of the arena from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. both today and Friday to get more people who have been affected by flooding to register for help and assistance.


"It's a one-stop shop for disaster victims," said William Koontz, public information officer for SBA.


Since several counties in Montana were declared disaster areas at the end of July by President Barack Obama, FEMA has been in Montana attempting to make contact with homeowners and renters who had property damaged by the floods that ravaged several parts of the state for the months of May and June.


Since the declaration, FEMA outreach specialists have been in the area going door-to-door encouraging people to go online and register for assistance, even if property owners have insurance.


The disaster center at the Four Seasons Arena is just "an extension of that," said Ricardo LaFore, FEMA outreach specialist.


A lot more people have registered for assistance, but many might have received letters saying they don't qualify for assistance from FEMA or the SBA. That shouldn't discourage people, LaFore said.


"Just say so, we'll ask for another inspection," he said. "A lot of people prefer to sit down face to face."


It might be something as simple as transposing numbers or putting in wrong information that caused a person's application to be rejected, or there might be something that needs to be appealed. Visiting the disaster center will allow people to speak with face to face with FEMA representatives who can help answer those questions.


To date, FEMA has distributed $3.4 million in household assistance and $259,000 in other needs assistance.


"There may be some things that insurance can't cover that FEMA can," LaFore said.


Additionally, Koontz said people have the misconception that because they are not a business they can't apply for an SBA loan, which isn't true. SBA is authorizing up to $200,000 in home loans and $2 million in business loans as part of disaster recovery.


Koontz said when people register through FEMA for assistance, they are also automatically referred to SBA to see if they qualify for a low-interest loan if they need additional assistance.


Also, sometimes it takes longer to settle an insurance claim than it does to receive an SBA loan, and those affected may need to make immediate repairs to their home, pay for insurance deductible or more. Koontz said there are also fewer restrictions on an SBA loan than a traditional loan from a bank.


SBA loans right now are less than 3 percent.


"There are times when this is the only avenue available," Koontz said. "There are communities (in the United States) involved in disaster that the only way they can recover is through FEMA and SBA."


Koontz and LaFore encourage people to still call the hotline, 1-800-621-3362 to register, but today and Friday they can also come to the Four Seasons Arena from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.


LaFore said there also are disaster recovery centers on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and in Havre that are going up.


The deadline to register for federal assistance is Sept. 26.





Mark Jette

Office of Senator Jon Tester

(202) 228-6278