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The deadline is near for residents displaced  from their homes in Bolivar County from the Mississippi River flood of 2011 to  apply for assistance from the federal government’s Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA).

“On May 11, 2011, President Barrack Obama signed the order  declaring the areas affected by the flood waters as natural disaster areas,” said Michael Skeels, public information officer for FEMA, who is currently  residing in Bolivar County. “By FEMA regulations, those affected by the flood  have 60 days to have their applications for assistance turned in.”

Since  the presidential declaration was signed and went into effect on May 11, home and  land owners have until 11:59 p.m. on July 10 to have their assistance  applications in.

FEMA’s mission is to support the citizens of the United  States and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to  build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against,  respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

On March 1,  2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S.  Department of Homeland Security.

“At this point in the application  process,” James Marquez, manager of FEMA’s Bolivar County Disaster Center, said, “It appears that a lot of people displaced or negatively affected from the flood  have taken the initial steps necessary to receive financial  assistance.”

However, there are still some questions concerning FEMA’s  wording or policies that are a little confusing.

The first and foremost  question that has been asked is, what does FEMA consider as primary and  secondary residences?

“Primary residences are homes where the owner lives  the majority of the time,” said Marquez. “There are some necessary documents  needed to prove that the resident is a primary one.

Some of the documents  include utility bills for the address in question, voter’s registration  paperwork and tax papers.

Another common question has been, what are the  requirements needed to qualify for renters assistance?

“When claims are  filed on a location, inspectors will travel out and look at the structure,” continued Marquez. “Renters of course would not receive the benefits from the  residence, but if the inspector considers that the property was not in livable  condition then renter’s assistance may be available.

In other words, it  is the responsibility of the applicant to verify that it was their ‘primary’ residence and inspectors must verify that the home was  uninhabitable.

“Again, we want to express the importance of coming to the  office, located on South Street behind the Cleveland Police Department, and  filing the necessary paperwork. We are here to help with each individual case  and assure applicants that their paperwork is complete and done correctly.”

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