Tornado survivors seek help at FEMA center in Trotwood

Kevin Pennington huddled beneath a door in the hallway with his wife and four kids as the Memorial Day tornado barrelled through his Brookville neighborhood and then, thinking it was over, he jumped up to close a window.

“I made it halfway to the bedroom and everything blew up around me,” said Pennington, who was slammed against a wall, suffering a concussion and punctured ear drum as the tornado demolished his 175 Brookmoor Drive home.

“I told them to stay down,” said Pennington, 37. “I just dropped myself on the door. The door was flying up and down. It was crazy. Children screaming.”

Pennington and his wife, Gloria, were at Trotwood-Madison High School on Saturday to apply for help at the newest Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Center for people impacted by the tornadoes that hit the Dayton region on Memorial Day evening.

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The Penningtons lost everything, including both of their vehicles, and he’s not sure if he wants to rebuild in the same place. The family had insurance on the home but only liability coverage on their vehicles, he said. All that remains of his home is a slab after the remains of it and the house next door were torn down after the tornado.

Tornado survivors can apply for grants and other aid from FEMA as well as low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, said Leo Skinner, external affairs officer for FEMA.

The center is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is staffed by federal, state and local officials who will help people navigate the recovery process. Skinner emphasized that people must register with FEMA and apply for help by Aug. 19 or they will not be eligible.

An inspector will come to their home or apartment to determine what assistance can be provided for lost property or damage. Rental assistance and help finding safe, secure housing is available. SBA loans for physical damage must also be applied for by that date, except for economic injury loans, which businesses can apply for by March 18, 2020, said Dorris A. Evans, public affairs specialist for the SBA.

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At this point there is no plan for FEMA to bring trailers for housing as that has not been requested by local or state officials, Skinner said.

FEMA cannot “make people whole,” said Skinner, but is a “helping hand to get you back on the road to recovery.”

“When it’s all said and done there are more loans given out than grants,” Skinner said.

Individuals and businesses applying for SBA disaster recovery loans must have a credit history and income acceptable to the SBA.

“You have to have the ability to pay it back,” Evans said.

At this point FEMA can provide individual assistance in 10 counties that have been declared disaster areas. Those are Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Hocking, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Muskingum, Perry and Pickaway counties.

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Natasha Woods, 31, was applying for help on Saturday after she lost her possessions and uninsured car when the tornado hit her Woodland Hills apartment in Trotwood. She said she owes $9,000 on the car and the bank expects to be paid.

“I had fallen on hard times and I had to make a decision on whether to pay the car insurance or the rent, so I paid the rent, said Woods, a pregnant mother of one who also did not have insurance on her possessions.

She said looters compounded the damage by breaking in after the tornado and stealing her TV and other items.

Evans said the low-interest SBA loans can be used for things like paying off a car loan. The loans can also help people who do not have homeowner insurance or business interruption insurance, she said.

“Come down and register for assistance if you need it and let SBA be a part of your recovery,” Evans said.

FEMA Disaster Recovery Center

Now open: Trotwood-Madison High School, 4440 N. Union Rd. Trotwood.

Opens Monday at Dayton Children's Hospital Child Health Pavilion, 1010 Valley St., Dayton.

Both will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Register online first: at Disaster or the FEMA app

For information: call FEMA at 800-621-3362

Call the U.S. SBA: at 800-659-2955

Deadline to register for FEMA help: Aug. 19

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