Area nonprofits along with the University of Dayton and the Dayton Foundation are working to formally align themselves to coordinate the expected two-plus years needed to help the survivors of Memorial Day tornadoes rebuild.
On Monday, the groups began reviewing a collaboration agreement that will guide them as the new Miami Valley Long-Term Recovery Operations Group coordinates volunteer labor and directs donations to tornado survivors, many who will have trouble rebuilding with little or no insurance and limited government assistance.
Meeting first in Trotwood on June 19, the organizations and others have been working in an ad hoc manner since. Those that are party to the agreement include:
The American Red Cross
Catholic Social Services
The Dayton Foundation
Goodwill/Easter Seals of the Miami Valley
Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response
Miami Valley Community Action Partnership
Rebuilding Together Dayton
The Salvation Army
St. Mary Development Corporation
St. Vincent de Paul
United Way of Greater Dayton
University of Dayton
The document establishes a process for selecting a five-person executive committee led by a permanent chair.
Participation in the region’s long-term recovery will be inclusive and not limited to the signatories, said Michael Vanderburgh, the executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who has chaired the group to this point.
“We want extra people at the table. We want government officials here. We want other faith-based organizations here to have a voice in guiding discussion,” he said. “This document is really focused on executive function and how it’s supervised.”
Vanderburgh expects the agreement to be signed and elections held within two weeks.
“Then we will just dive right in organizing the way we should according to the document,” he said.
The agreement calls for six permanent subcommittees: finance, donations management, housing, long-term case management, volunteer management and faith-based partners.
A signed, formal agreement would give the group the ability to hire paid staff, which could include a full-time recovery manager, Vanderburgh said.
The Montgomery County area was the hardest hit, illustrated by the number of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registrations received in the 11-county tornado disaster area.
About 78% of the state’s 4,027 registrations as of Monday had came from Montgomery County (3,145). Another 383 are from Greene County and 94 from Miami County.
More than 2,200 structures in Montgomery County were either destroyed by Memorial Day tornadoes or sustained major damage, leaving a building uninhabitable, according to data provided by the county.
No FEMA trailers
Trailers — like the ones provided by the government to victims of California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina — will not shelter Miami Valley tornado survivors despite many still trying to find housing, according to FEMA.
The scale of the disaster in the Miami Valley is not big enough compared to others and FEMA and the state estimate there is enough affordable housing available to meet the needs.
“They’re very small,” said Paul Ferris, FEMA’s disaster recovery center manager in Trotwood. “You’re re-certified every 30 days. Someone comes by and knocks on their door and says ‘What is the long term plan?’ So a travel trailer is just a stop-gap. You’re still going to have to have a long-term plan. You’re still going to have to find a place to live.”
One way that FEMA is helping is with short-term financial help.
“For renters we usually provide two months rent in advance,” said Ferris.
Federal aid in pipeline
President Donald Trump issued a Presidential Disaster Declaration on June 18, opening up federal assistance to individuals and businesses after 21 tornadoes touched down in Ohio during the evening of May 27 and early the next morning.
But local governments are still waiting to hear whether FEMA will help them recover costs.
The state of Ohio asked the federal government last week to open the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public assistance program to five counties, including Montgomery and Greene counties. Ohio Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Sima Merick wrote FEMA that a preliminary damage assessment shows about $18.1 million in eligible costs, of which two-thirds, or about $12 million, is for debris removal. The public assistance can also cover emergency protective measures and damaged infrastructure.
Ohio had not received a response from the federal government regarding public assistance funds as of Wednesday, according to the governor’s office.
While federal funds may ultimately help local governments with the cost of cleanup and damaged infrastructure, FEMA grants and Small Business Administration loans are already on the way to survivors.
As of Wednesday, more than $2.27 million has been approved for 866 grant applicants in FEMA’s Individual and Households Program, which is money put toward mostly rental assistance and home repair.
Working in conjunction with FEMA, the Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans to tornado victims. As of Monday, the SBA had approved 51 loans totaling $2,291,500, according to a spokesman. At least 316 loan applications at the time were being processed.
Tornado victims are encouraged to first register online or over the phone with FEMA.
Register with FEMA
Mobile device: FEMA App
Phone: 800-621-3362 (including 711 or Video Relay). TTY users can call 800-462-7585. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Multilingual operators are available.
Deadline to register: Aug. 19
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WHIO-TV reporter Jim Otte contributed to this story.