Red Cross gets flooded out

Publication Date: Friday Feb 13, 1998

How to apply for federal flood aid

Agencies are setting up shop to help homeowners and tenants recoup losses

Homeowners and tenants whose homes were damaged or belongings were lost in recent flooding can now begin applying for federal aid.

The first step is to call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-462-9029 to register. Flood victims also can apply in person at a special office opened Thursday by the Small Business Administration at the Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The help includes low-interest loans to repair homes and replace belongings, and, in some cases, outright grants to compensate people for their losses. FEMA can also help find housing for people flooded out of their homes or apartments.

"Basically, we'll make sure they have a roof over their heads," said Russ Edmonston, a FEMA spokesman.

The aid is the result of President Clinton's decision on Monday to declare 27 counties disaster areas, including Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Even though FEMA is organizing the relief efforts, homeowners and tenants must fill out loan applications from the Small Business Administration (SBA), another federal agency, if they want to get reimbursed for their losses. (The SBA loan applications are obtained by calling the FEMA telephone number listed above.)

"It's important to fill out the SBA loan applications, even if they think they can't pay back a loan," Edmonston said. Filling out the SBA loan application is the first step to getting a possible outright grant, he said.

Once the appropriate application forms have been filled out and returned to FEMA, it will take five or six days for a FEMA inspector to come out and examine the losses suffered at each individual home, business or apartment.

"(Applicants) must accompany the inspectors to the site," Edmonston said. To make this possible, flood victims should include on their application forms a telephone number where they are temporarily staying, he said.

"We will get out there as soon as possible," Edmonston said. Teams of inspectors are being assembled from around the country, he added.

In some cases, homeowners who suffered major damage may be asked to make temporary repairs to their homes to make them habitable while the applications for help with major repairs are being processed, Edmonston said.

In addition, property owners whose buildings were damaged in the flood may be eligible to receive property tax relief, according to San Mateo County Assessor Warren Slocum. "Current property tax law allows the assessor to reduce the assessment of a property that is damaged or destroyed due to calamity, which includes fire and earthquake as well as floods," Slocum said.

In order to qualify for a reduced assessment, a property must have had damage in excess of $5,000, and a completed application must be filled with the county assessor within 60 days of when the damage occurred.

San Mateo County property owners can receive application forms for reduced assessments by calling 363-4500. Santa Clara County residents can receive applications by calling (408) 299-2401.

--Don Kazak

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