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Newton residents eligible for FEMA assistance

Staff photo: Erin Evans. The Georgia Department of Transportation clears debris from the right of way of Ga. Highway 142 and Johnson Street.

Staff photo: Erin Evans. The Georgia Department of Transportation clears debris from the right of way of Ga. Highway 142 and Johnson Street.

COVINGTON -- Newton County residents who suffered storm damage to their property last week may qualify for assistance from the federal government.

Newton County has qualified for disaster assistance available to individual property owners from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"If they've had damage to their property and are either underinsured or not insured, they can register online and someone with FEMA will contact them," said Jody Nolan, deputy director with Newton County Emergency/Risk Management.

Applications can be made online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 1-800-621-3362. The hearing and speech impaired can use a TTY line at 1-800-462-7585. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Assistance for homeowners and renters can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs or other disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

FEMA inspectors were expected in Newton on Wednesday to determine if the county is eligible for reimbursement of its cost related to storm cleanup. Nolan estimated about $100,000 has been spent thus far, the majority in Newborn, which was hit by an F1 tornado last Thursday morning.

"We still have a lot of debris on rights of way. We're setting priorities, with the larger piles and main roads being addressed (first)," Nolan said, adding that there are 1,700 dump truck loads of debris in Newborn alone, based on an estimate by the Georgia Department of Transportation. "That's on the rights of way. That's not counting the debris in people's yards. That's just what we're responsible for cleaning up."

Assistance continues to pour into Newborn from the community at large, Nolan said, adding that members of Volunteer Fire Stations 4, 10 and 11 assisted private property owners with clean-up Tuesday evening. General Mills has contributed pallets of cereal and microwaveable dinners to homeowners who suffered damage, he said, and Hays Tractor has loaned equipment. And Newborn residents have shown great support for each other, Nolan added.

"The town of Newborn should be proud of themselves for the way they've come together in order to address this situation. Neighbors have helped neighbors," he said.