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FEMA urges residents with storm damage to register for federal aid

Families, individuals and businesses in Washington County who suffered uninsured property damage due to the heavy wind and rain storm earlier this month are now eligible for federal help.

Homeowners and renters should register for state and federal assistance even if they believe their insurance will cover everything damaged, officials say.

Oregon Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday added Washington County to a list of six Oregon counties that now qualify for federal grants following severe weather that swept through the region in early December.

Being added to the list means residents with storm-damaged homes and other structures can now seek federal aid for housing, clean-up, repair and other expenses caused by flooding, landslides and mudslides between Dec. 1 and 17.

So far, emergency managers have heard from 21 families and businesses with storm-related damage, primarily in the western area of Washington County. That total includes three homes in the Devonshire neighborhood of Cedar Hills and six homes in King City.

To apply for federal assistance, disaster victims are asked to register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or going on-line to www.fema.gov/assistance.

Anyone who is speech- or hearing-impaired can call 1-800-462-7585.

Even those homeowners and renters who are insured for their damages should register with FEMA so eligibility can be determined, said Cleo Howell, FEMA spokesman.

After an insurance claim has been paid, there may be uninsured losses that could be eligible under FEMA's disaster-assistance programs, he said.

Affected families, individuals and businesses are also encouraged to report their storm-damaged structures to the Office of Consolidated Emergency Management for Washington County at 503-642-0369.

Registering losses with FEMA and the local emergency management office will allow for appropriate agency follow-up and coordination, said Philip Bransford, Washington County spokesman.

Available assistance includes grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs, rebuilding efforts and replacement of lost or disaster-damaged personal property.

'The grants will help to make houses safe, sanitary and livable again,' Howell said.

For more extensive damage, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration will also be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

The administration may loan up to $200,000 to repair or replace homes and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. Up to $1.5 million is available for uncompensated business-disaster losses.

Washington County has already been approved for the public-assistance grant program.

Under the program, FEMA awards grants to assist state and local governments and certain private, non-profit organizations with the response to and recovery from disasters.

'The public-assistance funding will compensate police, fire, public works, cities, schools and other agencies, allowing them to recover a portion of the money used in the disaster,' Howell said.

The federal program covers up to 75 percent of the costs that public agencies incurred in the storm.

Funding will help pay for debris removal, implementation of emergency protective measures and permanent restoration of infrastructure.

It will also support hazard mitigation measures for future protection.

Washington County officials estimate that the Dec. 1 storm caused $5.7 million in damage to county and state property, including roads and timberland.

Most of the roads damaged in the storm were in the western portion of the county.

Washington County officials representing city, public works, special districts and other agencies plan to meet Jan. 9 and begin the process of applying for compensation under FEMA's public-assistance program.

'The program's goal is to help local governments recoup money they would have to otherwise spend by responding to a disaster,' Howell said.

Christina Lent and Christian Gaston with Pamplin Media Group contributed to this story.