Canton Repository

February 16, 2005

Stark, Tuscarawas get federal disaster status

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday issued an official federal disaster declaration for 59 counties in Ohio, including Stark and Tuscarawas, making them eligible for federal help in recovery from last month’s storms.

Two different kinds of help will be available: grants to local governments and grants or loans to property owners and businesses.

Of the 59 counties, 41 of them, including Stark, Tuscarawas and Carroll, are eligible only for aid to state and local governments. Other local qualifying counties include Harrison, Holmes and Wayne.

The storms caused an estimated $268.5 million in losses across the state, including $67.6 million to local governments and $59.9 million to rural electric cooperatives, the state said.

Stark and Tuscarawas were particularly hard hit by flooding.

The state estimated losses to local governments in the counties at $3,049,600 in Tuscarawas and $2,656,400 in Stark.

Two of the 59 counties in the declaration are eligible only for grants or low-interest loans to property owners or businesses that sustained losses.

Sixteen of the 59 counties, including Coshocton, qualify for both forms of assistance under the federal designation.

Under the public assistance program, state or local governments may seek federal reimbursement for debris removal, emergency workers’ overtime, and the repair of roads, bridges, water treatment facilities and other government infrastructure.

Nonprofit rural electric cooperatives also are eligible for reimbursement. Some nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross may be eligible, said James McIntyre, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The federal government will cover 75 percent of the loss while state or local governments must pick up 25 percent.

Officials said it’s possible that Stark, Tuscarawas, Guernsey and some other counties could qualify for aid to private property and businesses after further damage assessments are completed.

At the time that Gov. Bob Taft requested a federal disaster declaration two weeks ago, officials had not been able to assess losses to private property in Stark, Tuscarawas and Guernsey because of prolonged flooding in those counties.

Now that the disaster declaration is official, authorities plan to return to those counties to conduct assessments of damages to private property, said Rob Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

“If we think we’ll be able to substantiate (eligibility for individual assistance) then we’ll ask the federal government to amend the federal disaster declaration,” Glenn said.

FEMA is setting up meetings to explain to local governments how to apply for aid, officials said.

Individuals and businesses that sustained losses can apply for aid if they are in a county that was designated eligible for individual assistance.

Individuals can begin the application process by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (1-800-462-7585 for hearing or speech impaired) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week or by registering online at:

www.fema.gov