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Deadline approaching for federal tornado assistance

Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 1:00 AM

Three months after the Memorial Day tornadoes, little progress has been made on some houses like those in Trotwood on Greenbrook Drive seen Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Chris Stewart
Three months after the Memorial Day tornadoes, little progress has been made on some houses like those in Trotwood on Greenbrook Drive seen Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF(Chris Stewart)

Two avenues for tornado survivors to get federal assistance will shut down within days, while a new helpline started taking calls this week from those with unmet needs.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will close its remaining Ohio disaster recovery center in Dayton on Friday and the final day to register for those who suffered losses in the Memorial Day tornadoes will be next Tuesday.

“Don’t disqualify yourself,” said Susan Jensen, a FEMA Recovery Division senior emergency management specialist. “The registration period ends Sept. 3. At that point our assistance is not available anymore. ”

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INTERACTIVE MAP: See where thousands of properties were damaged in Montgomery County tornadoes

FEMA assistance is not limited to homeowners, Jensen said. Renters, too, may be eligible for help, particularly for rental assistance.

“If you lost rental housing that you resided in or if you know people who have. Please encourage them to register,” she said.

A record-breaking 21 tornadoes hit Ohio on Memorial Day night through the next morning, including 15 in the area. The largest, an EF4, swept from Brookville through Trotwood, Harrison Twp., Dayton and Riverside.

Up to 1,100 households were displaced in Montgomery County and nearly 70% are still struggling to find someplace to live, according to FEMA, which opened its first area disaster recovery center in Trotwood on June 22.

The disaster recovery center at Dayton Children’s Hospital Child Health Pavilion remains open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily but only through the end of Friday.

As of Tuesday, more than 3,900 visits had been to the disaster resource centers, including 1,906 at FEMA’s Trotwood location before it closed Aug. 8.

MORE: Remaining tornado tree debris too much for many owners, aid groups

Illen Abney, a Trotwood homeowner, said she made multiple trips to the disaster recovery center that was located at Trotwood High School.

“They saw my face almost daily,” said Abney, who lost a roof, her porch and had substantial interior damage to her home on Olive Tree Drive.

“The tornado did a dance on the inside of my house, not only on the outside.”

Abney, who was uninsured, said she received some assistance from FEMA, but “it was nothing to cover the costs that I’m going through right now.”

While she may be eligible for low-interest SBA loans, Abney, 69, doesn’t want to have another house payment, she said. Instead, she’s dipping into her retirement to make repairs.

MORE: Tornadoes have hundreds of households struggling for housing

On Tuesday, Abney consulted with Tim Crouch of Untethered Builders and his crew about the next set of repairs, including to her front porch roof.

When the tornado hit her home, Abney was out of the country checking items off her bucket list, including skydiving and scuba diving.

“That’s what I planned on doing when I retired, not this,” she said.

New helpline goes live

Tornado survivors with needs unmet by private insurance, FEMA grants or low-interest Small Business Association loans, can also seek help locally through a new disaster recovery helpline that went live Tuesday.

The United Way’s 211 HelpLink number will connect survivors to special operators who can complete an assessment and offer one-on-one case management assistance. The operators are available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

MORE: $5M in disaster grants lift tornado recovery efforts

Disaster case managers will partner with survivors to navigate the recovery process, identify available resources and help survivors achieve recovery goals.

The service is available for all Miami Valley households impacted by the tornadoes. If 211 service is not available in your area, survivors may call 937-225-3000.

Individuals with questions related to FEMA should continue to work with FEMA directly by going to the Disaster Resource Center at Children’s Medical Center, which will close on Friday, or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Business centers to close

The SBA announced Tuesday that due to a decrease in activity, it is winding down business recovery centers in Greene County and Montgomery County. The centers at 3210 Beaver-Vu Dr. in Beavercreek and at 5945 North Dixie Drive in Harrison Twp. will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. before ceasing operation at the close of business Thursday.

MORE: Local tornado victims slow to get FEMA aid approval

While the FEMA disaster recovery center in Dayton will close at 7 p.m. Friday, it will reopen Tuesday at 8 a.m. as an SBA loan outreach center. The center is located at Dayton Children’s Hospital Child Health Pavilion, 1010 Valley St.

Currently, SBA has approved 602 disaster loans in Ohio for totaling more than $24.6 million. More than half the loans — 364 representing $14.8 million — have been approved in Montgomery County where damage was significant. Of those, 340 were home loans for over $12.7 million and 24 for business loans totalling $2.1 million dollars.