FEMA Spokesperson Jann Tracey explains three ways people can apply for wildfire recovery assistance through FEMA.
Salem Statesman Journal
A major concern of Santiam Canyon residents impacted by the Labor Day wildfires is assistance: would they get it, and when.
In the month since historic wildfires decimated regions of Oregon including Santiam Canyon cities such as Detroit and Gates, FEMA has paid out $17 million to people impacted in the state, FEMA spokesperson Jann Tracey said.
“We can’t put things back together. We can give them a jump start, and that’s what our mission is,” Tracey said.
Tracey said in the past month, FEMA has received 10,849 applications in the state and has paid out $17,359,946 for individual assistance and housing.
That includes 1,340 applicants in Marion County who have received $963,893 and 467 applicants in Linn County who have received $391,966.
Those impacted by the wildfires have until Nov. 13 to register for assistance from FEMA.
FEMA individual assistance housing crew lead Anabel Quinones said most people who have sought assistance from the agency have insurance, but the agency may cover things insurance doesn’t.
“So we can provide rental assistance,” she said. “We can also cover lodging reimbursement if they were evacuated. They just need to bring in their receipts. We can cover that if the insurance doesn’t.”
The agency opened its external outreach center for the Santiam Canyon area at the Stayton Community Center at 400 West Virginia Street in Stayton on Friday, and Tracey said it will be the central location for FEMA’s efforts throughout the wildfire recovery efforts.
The center will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“People often have lost all of their documentation, identity, everything,” Tracey said. “Here, they can not only help in regards to getting help with whatever documentation they need, it’s really a valuable resource to have people go to the external outreach center, rather than having them do it by phone or online.”
FEMA approves temporary housing, but limits exist
An estimated 4,100 homes in Oregon burned down in the wildfires and thousands more sustained damage.
FEMA has limits for how much money it can pay, however.
“The max is $35,500. That’s for housing assistance, for house repairs,” Quinones said. “And then there’s another one for personal property, that’s another $35,000.”
Last week, FEMA approved temporary housing for those displaced by wildfires for those who’s primary residence is in Marion, Linn and Jackson counties, and that housing will be available for up to 18 months.
Tracey said FEMA currently has about 2,000 evacuees in Oregon in about 1,000 hotel rooms across the state.
“We also have rental assistance, which is available to people when there’s rental property available,” she said.
FEMA trailers are the next step
Tracey said the next step is the direct housing mission, commonly referred to as FEMA trailers.
“The need is based on what is available in terms of rental units in the county,” she said. “A big problem is more than 50% of the homes that are destroyed are mobile homes. Typically, people in mobile homes are what’s considered affordable housing.”
Tracey said FEMA has identified 576 applicants that may be eligible for a housing unit, including 52 in Marion County and 14 in Linn County.
But it hasn’t been determined when the FEMA trailers will arrive or where they will be placed.
FEMA tries to place the housing units as close as possible to where the displaced residents live, but Tracey said that may be difficult in many cases as the properties where the debris needs to be cleared and the property inspected for trailers to be placed there.
In some cases, though, removing that material could take a year or more.
Quinones said one of the questions most people have asked is about debris removal.
The Oregon Debris Management Task Force said in a release a coordinated debris removal effort between the state, FEMA and impacted counties will be at no cost to impacted homeowners.
Homeowners must sign a right of entry form by Oct. 16.
The forms require the homeowner’s name, address and insurance information, if the homeowner has insurance.
The crews will remove hazardous material first and then ash and other debris.
The form for those in Marion County is located at https://www.co.marion.or.us/fire and for those in Linn County at http://www.co.linn.or.us/index.php?content=wildlandfire.
Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler
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