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Hurricane Victims Get More Time to Apply for Help

By Cheryl Johnston
Capital News Service
Friday, Nov. 14, 2003

WASHINGTON - Federal officials gave Marylanders more time Friday to apply for help with damage caused by Hurricane Isabel, announcing that the original deadline of Tuesday would now be pushed back to Dec. 8.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Friday they extended the Maryland deadline to eliminate confusion with the deadline in neighboring Virginia, which had its deadline extended to Dec. 8 a day earlier.

"We hope this extra time will ensure that everyone who suffered damage and losses from Hurricane Isabel will get the federal and state assistance they need to begin the process of rebuilding their lives," said Bill Lockey in a written statement. Lockey coordinates Isabel-related relief for FEMA.

As of Friday, 16,431 Marylanders had registered for help from FEMA, which had given out nearly $19.5 million to cover temporary housing and home repairs and another $6.5 million for "necessary and serious needs" not covered by insurance.

The agency is still getting 75 to 100 new applications for aid from Maryland every day, officials said. Those applications are coming online, by phone and at the agency's disaster relief centers in Baltimore and Dorchester counties, the only two Maryland centers that were set up after Isabel that remain open.

"They're still getting a fair amount of visitors every day," FEMA spokesman Joe Klocek said.

"I just got back from the one in Baltimore County and by about noon they had about 20 applicants come in. They had 54 come in yesterday," Klocek said Friday.

The FEMA deadline extension will also give people more time to apply for post-hurricane help from the Small Business Administration.

The administration said that, as of Friday, it had received more than 3,000 applications from Maryland disaster victims for low-interest loans. Of those, SBA spokeswoman Colleen Hiam said the administration had approved 969 loans for $34.5 million.

All but 100 of those loans went to homeowners and renters, who received a total of $29.3 million. Maryland business owners have been loaned $5.2 million so far by the administration.

Private insurance claims stemming from Hurricane Isabel have totaled about $410 million in Maryland and Washington, D.C., according to the Insurance Services Office Inc. That office -- which said it receives reports from at least 80 percent of private insurers -- does not separate Maryland and Washington in its estimates.

A spokesman for the Insurance Services Office said Friday that insurers have received about 89,000 claims from Maryland and D.C. customers: at least 70,000 personal claims totaling $330 million; 4,000 commercial claims totaling $50 million; and 15,000 auto claims totaling $60 million.

FEMA's Klocek said his agency does not have a target for the amount of aid it will hand out, but that applications from the Chesapeake Bay region seemed a bit low, if anything, to him. He expects there is still need in the region.

"As long as the disaster victims show that they need that service, we'll keep the centers open," he said.


Copyright 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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