Tornado survivors without means to rebuild in ‘limbo’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Aerial views of Trotwood neighborhood off Denlinger Road revealing home damage beyond repair

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

But housing advocates say help will come in time.

Tornado survivors without the means to rebuild on their own and short on insurance or FEMA money should stay patient, say those working on long-term recovery efforts. It may be months longer, but help will come.

While many who had adequate insurance are well on the way to rebuilding, others remain in “limbo,” said Amy Radachi, president and CEO of Rebuilding Together Dayton, one of the local organizations aligned to help repair and rebuild housing.

“It’s going to be a matter of putting together all the pieces of the puzzle to be able to put their homes back together again,” she said. “By the puzzle, I mean all the different funding sources that are available.”

MORE: Here’s how to get free legal assistance for low-income tornado survivors

Any request for unmet needs must go through a “funnel” of services. And that funnel begins with registering with FEMA, said Adam Blake, vice president of housing for County Corp.

“You’ve got to go through the process,” he said.

As of Thursday, 5,180 individuals or households had registered with FEMA from 11 counties declared a disaster area after Memorial Day tornadoes. Of those, 3,697, or about 71%, were from Montgomery County. Another 476 had signed up from Greene County, 102 from Miami County and another 17 from Darke County, according to FEMA data.

Dozens of registrations continue to flow in daily – 81 on Thursday — with the deadline to register now less than a month away on Aug. 19.

Blake said storm survivors have potentially 18 months of housing assistance available through FEMA to “help them with being patient.”

If a person has been denied by FEMA, exhaust the appeals process, Blake said.

A primary focus of the newly-organized Miami Valley Long-Term Recovery Operations Group is to help people whose insurance and FEMA assistance fell short to get their homes repaired and rebuilt through a variety of grants, gifts, donations and volunteer labor.

The organizations currently putting the puzzle together are County Corp, Habitat for Humanity, Miami Valley Community Action Partnership, Rebuilding Together Dayton and others.

MORE: Montgomery County property taxes due; tornado relief offered

“We are already setting ourselves up to … identify, what we can access that would fill in gaps that prevent families and households from being made whole,” Blake said.

Blake said County Corp is applying for funding through a Federal Home Loan Bank disaster recovery program that could bring in $1.5 million annually into the community over three years. The program provides up to $20,000 per household for repairs; up to $8,000 for renters in down payment assistance if they want to purchase a home; and $20,000 for households who choose to rebuild or purchase a new home.

A subgroup is also coordinating efforts of volunteers — some who will begin showing up from out of state — with donated materials and volunteer labor.

“That’s all being mobilized but it’s not on the street yet,” Blake said.

Blake said he knows the process will continue to be extraordinarily frustrating for many people impacted by the tornadoes.

“I receive heartbreaking phone calls every day,” he said.

FEMA public assistance

FEMA expanded its assistance to the region on Wednesday to include aid for local governments, schools and nonprofits hit by the tornadoes in four counties, including Greene and Montgomery counties.

MORE: Not all tornado survivors sign up for FEMA assistance

The counties will be eligible for federal funds for storm-related response and recovery efforts including debris removal, emergency protective measures, and damaged infrastructure.

“Responding to the Memorial Day storms cost local governments millions of dollars, straining local budgets,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “FEMA has agreed to pick up some of those expenses, bringing some much needed budgetary relief. We are grateful for their assistance.”

At the end of June, Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency a preliminary damage estimate of $18.1 million in eligible costs. About $12 million of that was debris removal. Montgomery County accounted for a bulk of total estimate, $12,243,442.03, according to the county.

Public schools and private non-profit organizations can apply for reimbursement of tornado-damage costs incurred to fix an eligible facility due to physical damage, temporary repairs like tarping and debris removal operations.

A briefing on the FEMA Public Assistance application process for eligible Montgomery County communities and eligible private non-profit organizations will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the Crown Plaza Hotel, 33 East Fifth St., Dayton.

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