Newton qualifies for help
Federal aid includes housing grants, loans

COVINGTON - Residents in Newton County who suffered flood damage could qualify for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Newton is one of 20 Georgia counties that qualify for individual assistance for homeowners.

The assistance could include grants to pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not covered by insurance.

"Anyone who experienced any damage from flooding should register with FEMA," said Jody Nolan, deputy director of Newton County Emergency/Risk Management.

Property owners should make every effort to get their insurance to cover the damage, Nolan said. About 90 percent of homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flooding, he said, but an official denial from the insurance company will improve chances of getting FEMA aid.

To apply for FEMA assistance go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or, for the hearing impaired, 1-800-462-7585.

Callers are advised to have the following information to help speed up the application process:

· Current phone number;

· Social Security number;

· A general list of damages and losses;

· If insured, an insurance policy number, or the agent and company's name;

· General financial information; and

· Bank account code to speed up assistance with direct deposit.

"If you have suffered damage, you should register no matter whether you are a homeowner, renter or business owner," Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech said. "Even if you don't have all the necessary information available - such as the exact amount of insurance loss - it is important to register. Be sure to have a secure mailing address, especially if you had to move out of your home."

FEMA inspectors will come out to assess the damage in most cases, but property owners shouldn't wait to start cleanup, Nolan said.

"They need to go ahead and start the cleanup process ... Don't just wait for FEMA to come out and evaluate the situation. But during the cleanup process, they need to document it by writing down dates and times and taking lots of pictures," he said.

Also, a Disaster Recovery Center operated by FEMA and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will open at 8 a.m. today at the Rockdale Government Annex Building located at 1400 Parker Road in Conyers.

The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until further notice and will serve residents of both Rockdale and Newton counties.

Specialists will be on hand to give assistance, such as checking the status of an application, answering questions about a claim or reviewing information needed to process claims.

They will also supply contacts for other programs that provide help to those affected by the storms and floods.

For more information, visit www.rockdalecounty.org.

As of Monday, more than 7,000 residents and businesses had filed with FEMA for help, as the list of counties eligible for individual federal assistance grew to 20.

Newton County is not qualified to receive public assistance for state and local governments and private nonprofit organizations, according to FEMA.