From left, Malyssa Suarez, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Brigitte Bouska, with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Steve Cooper, of FEMA, and Ahmed Hossain, of the Small Business Administration, conduct a joint preliminary assessment of tornado damage Wednesday, June 5, at the Woodland Hills Apartments in Trotwood. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart
Photo: Chris Stewart

$1.9M in local tornado aid approved; for others ‘it’s a waiting game’

The vast majority of applicants seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance in 10 Ohio counties are survivors from Montgomery County, where twisters cut a swath from Brookville to Riverside.

FEMA had received 2,912 registrations for tornado damage assistance as of Friday morning. Of those — 2,473, or about 85% — were submitted by Montgomery County residents, according to FEMA. Applications from Greene County number 270 and 39 individuals or households had registered from Miami County.

Already, about $1.9 million in assistance through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program has been approved for 731 victims, said Leo Skinner a FEMA spokesman.

RELATED: With thousands of buildings unlivable, tornado survivors seek alternatives

The number of people requesting assistance is bound to grow as some like Aisha Jones are just now seeking help.

Jones went table to table this week at a FEMA disaster recovery center at Trotwood-Madison High School looking for help to find new housing after her Woodland Hills apartment building in Trotwood was destroyed. She’s sleeping on a co-worker’s couch until she hears whether she’ll get deposit money to find a new place.

“I have to wait until they basically accept or deny it,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out what’s next. It’s a waiting game.”

Roughly 90 percent of the assistance now approved has already been disbursed to victims, Skinner said. Most of the early-approved funds are going toward rental assistance and home repair.

MORE: Area employers helping hundreds of workers with tornado assistance

Skinner said the process may perplex and perturb some as FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA) work to determine what assistance a person, household or business is qualified to receive.

“There’s confusion about what people may qualify for, whether that’s FEMA grants or SBA loans,” he said. “The person has to work their way through the system based on whether they have insurance or not or qualify for an SBA loan or not.”

As of Friday there were nearly 1,000 applications awaiting the review of insurance settlement documents and a common reason for initially not getting assistance is the lack of proper insurance paperwork, Skinner said.

“There may have been people who were denied because they didn’t provide their insurance settlement information or maybe they needed to provide additional documentation,” he said.

MORE: Tornado survivors seek help at FEMA center in Trotwood

FEMA grants are meant to help with housing assistance and to return homes to a safe and sanitary living condition. Damage to non-essential space or property is not eligible under its programs, according to FEMA.

People may simply be ineligible for aid because their insurance covered the losses or the applicants desired to remain in a damaged home, losing eligibility for temporary rental assistance. FEMA decisions, however, can be appealed, according to the agency.

Working in tandem with FEMA, the SBA is also providing low-interest loans to individuals and businesses for rebuilding. As of Friday, the SBA had received 315 applications and approved more than $500,000 in loans within the Ohio disaster area, said Dorris Evans, an SBA spokeswoman.

PHOTOS: Trotwood one month after tornado, on the ground and from the air

The SBA loans are geared toward long-term recovery and the amount approved this week reflects a small portion of what will eventually be approved, Evans said.

By the end of Thursday, 631 people, including Trey Higgins of Trotwood, had met in person with FEMA representatives at one of the area’s three operational disaster recovery centers.

“I lost my apartment and everything in it,” Higgins said. “My renter’s insurance only covered so much.”

Most people like Higgins went to the center in Trotwood, which saw 473 survivors through Thursday. Another 87 had met with FEMA at Dayton Children’s Hospital while 71 stopped in at the Beavercreek center, according to FEMA.

MORE: Tornado relief: FEMA opens Miami County disaster resource center location

A mobile center opened Friday in Miami County and will open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. today through Monday at Milton Union High School.

President Donald Trump issued a Presidential Disaster Declaration on June 18, opening up federal assistance for individuals and businesses after 21 tornadoes touched down in Ohio during the evening of May 27 and early the next morning.

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Staff Writer Sara Hagan contributed to this report.

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