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FEMA: 85,000 applications, $19 million paid so far

By Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer –

PHILADELPHIA — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid out nearly $19 million so far to victims of Hurricane Sandy, primarily for temporary rentals or other housing.

More than 85,000 people have applied for assistance, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said Friday.

Two disaster recovery centers opened Friday in New Jersey where residents can apply for assistance, in Brick (41 Drum Point Road) and in Cape May Courthouse (30 Mechanics St.), and residents can also apply by phone (800-621-3362) or on the Web ((

Fugate said the focus of FEMA’s efforts now, in addition to helping victims get shelter, was to increase supplies of gasoline and to restore power.

The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily waiving some maritime rules to allow foreign oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports to help ease the fuel shortages.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she is temporarily waiving the Jones Act, which prohibits international cargo ships from transporting oil between U.S. ports.

The American Red Cross said it has 30 shelters open in New Jersey to house storm victims, and four mobile kitchens are operating in hard-hit areas, capable of serving 80,000 meals a day.

FEMA said it has more than 2,300 workers in the storm area.

After a resident applies for assistance, a FEMA inspector will be assigned to assess the damage and determine what assistance the resident qualifies for. Then a check can be issued, or in the case of business owners, a referral made to the Small Business Administration for low-interest loan assistance.

These are the kinds of assistance available from FEMA:

Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.

Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional.

Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.

Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available up to $200,000 for the primary residence and $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.

Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan, in combination with a property loss loan, cannot exceed a total of $2 million.

Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers, and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.

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