FEMA assistance here brings large number of residents to file claims on losses

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With Switzerland County joining other Indiana counties in being declared state and federal disaster areas as a result of last month’s windstorms, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA – joined this week with local emergency officials in processing claims by residents here.

Gary Wentworth, local executive director of Switzerland County Emergency Management, said that the FEMA office located on the west side of Vevay saw a steady stream of people during the past week who were filing claims on losses, and that the deadline to file for food reimbursement ended on Tuesday night when the office closed down at 8 p.m.

All through the week a line of residents stood outside of the FEMA office waiting to make application to recover losses, and now those who qualified for other types of aid are now waiting on reimbursements.

“The public assistance program went well,” Gary Wentworth said. “Overall, I guess things are going as well as can be expected. Some people waited too long to get their claims in for immediate assistance, but there’s not much we can do about that.”

Gary Wentworth said that some residents of Ohio County came to the FEMA office asking about what assistance was available to them. He said that currently Ohio County has not been included on the list of official disaster areas, but that it was important that Ohio County residents call and report their losses. That can be done either to the county emergency management office, or to the federal office. Electronically, damage may be reported through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s website: www.in.gov/dhs; or you can use a toll free number to call, 1-888-335-9490.

“People in Ohio County need to report their damage so that their area can be considered for assistance,” Gary Wentworth said.

Here in Switzerland County, emergency workers are still processing information on the amount of damage that the storm did. So far, estimates of damage are falling between $800,000 and $900,000.

“It’s the biggest loss that this county has seen in awhile,” Gary Wentworth said.

The Switzerland County Emergency Management agency is also beginning the process of going through the steps to get reimbursement for county agencies who had direct additional funds to the cleanup effort or who suffered losses due to the storm.

Gary Wentworth said that his office has gone through the first few steps of making application, but that should move more quickly now that the immediate relief portion of the program has concluded. He said that there will be meetings, and his office is already preparing project worksheets and other needed documents to move the process forward.

All of that is normally done over a 30 day period, then it will be a matter of waiting on the reimbursements.

Officials from state and federal agencies are also expected here to conduct private meetings with people who suffered damage but who didn’t have insurance. Gary Wentworth said that he has not been given a timetable for those meetings to begin.

Overall, Gary Wentworth is asking county residents and businesses to be patient as the process moves along. He noted that some individuals or businesses may be eligible for assistance on one side of the program; but not on another; while some may be eligible for both types of assistance.

“Basically it takes everyone working together to report this stuff,” he said.

Bill Lehman, FEMA Public Affairs officer, said that county residents have 60 days to register for assistance. Since the county was declared a disaster area on October 3rd, that means people have until December 3rd of this year to file a claim.

He said that as of Wednesday of this week, there had been 80 registrations for claims made here in Switzerland County.

Those needing more information on filing a claim with FEMA may call 1-800-621-3362; or register online at www.fema.org.

Locally, those with questions may contact Switzerland County Emergency Management at 812-528-5170.

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While FEMA works with individuals and businesses here; the U.S. Department of Agriculture has also announced that Switzerland County is one of 20 counties in Indiana that have been made eligible for emergency farm loans.

Six Indiana counties: Jefferson, Jennings, Harrison, Lake, LaPorte, and Porter – were designated as primary disaster areas; while 14 others, including Switzerland County, were given contiguous disaster designations.

Along with Switzerland, other counties include: Ripley, Decatur, Scott, Clark, Floyd, Washington, Bartholomew, Jackson, Jasper, Starke, Crawford, Newton, and St. Joseph.

Farmers who live in Switzerland County who suffered losses from the windstorm may now be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency as a result of this designation.

Farmers here or in one of the other designated areas should contact the local Farm Service Agency for more information on the emergency loan programs.

FSA will consider each application back on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability.

Farmers here should contact the local FSA office at 427-3126, extension 2; or by emailing recovery@isda.in.gov.