JOPLIN, Mo. — Tera Brady and Chris Spurlin on Friday were at the
Disaster Recovery Center at First United Methodist Church in Joplin.
The engaged Joplin couple said the May 22 tornado destroyed their home, then a fire eliminated what remained of their belongings.
“We lost everything,” Brady said.
They had applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but said they were told that before they could receive a FEMA grant, they must first apply for and be denied a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They were at the church seeking help with the loan application.
“They were really friendly and helped us a lot,” Brady said.
They aren’t under any obligation to accept the loan if they are approved, and in fact were hoping to be denied so they would be eligible for the FEMA grant.
“We can’t really afford a loan right now,” Spurlin said.
Todd Boatwright also was at the Disaster Recovery Center. He said the tornado wiped out his business, Queen City Air Freight, and only then did he discover he was underinsured. He said he didn’t know what to expect from the visit.
“The worst they can do is say no,” Boatwright said.
According to the most recent numbers, 7,627 Jasper County households had registered with FEMA, and the agency had approved more than $9 million in assistance for Jasper County applicants. There also were 370 Newton County households registered, with $379,507 approved so far.
Josh deBerge, an external affairs specialist with FEMA, said assistance is designed to supplement voluntary assistance and state-based assistance. He said insurance comes first for most people. He said FEMA looks first at what insurance coverage an applicant has.
“FEMA assistance is not designed to make them whole or restore their homes to pre-disaster conditions,” deBerge said. He said each application is considered individually to determine what federal assistance is available.
The services FEMA does provide include temporary housing for a limited time, or rental assistance.
In some cases there may be money available for homeowners to repair their homes and rarely to replace their homes.
He said FEMA also has a category of assistance called “other needs assistance” that provides money for serious needs. Those include disaster medical and dental costs, and funeral costs. It also sometimes includes clothing, room furniture and appliances.
There may be some funding for vehicles and other necessary expenses, depending on eligibility, deBerge said.
As Brady and Spurlin noted, deBerge said most of the federal assistance for individuals during disasters comes from the U.S. Small Business Administration. He said those who don’t automatically qualify for FEMA assistance are referred to the SBA to fill out a loan application.
Mark Randle, SBA spokesman, said in times of disaster, the SBA is the primary source of federal assistance for owners of private property.
“We offer low-interest loans to repair or replace the damage that’s not covered by insurance,” Randle said. He said the loans can be up to $200,000 for homes and up to $40,000 for personal property, including vehicles. The interest rate is 2.688 percent.
Randle said the first step is to register with FEMA, which then makes referrals to the SBA.
He said there are other loans available for businesses and nonprofits.
“There’s no obligation and no cost” to apply for a loan, Randle said.
He also said people shouldn’t wait on insurance settlements to apply. He said people can pay down their loans with the insurance settlement.
“We encourage people not to disqualify themselves,” he said.
The deadline to apply to SBA for physical damage is July 8. He said SBA representatives are on hand at the Disaster Recovery Centers to assist people. As of Wednesday, the SBA had issued 3,759 disaster loan applications to individuals and 832 disaster loan applications to business owners.
RED CROSS, OTHERS
The American Red Cross has received a large amount of donations after the tornado. Steve Woods, a Red Cross spokesman, said its main focus is emergency shelter and food for disaster victims.
The Red Cross operates the shelter at Missouri Southern State University that has been housing and feeding around 200 people per night.
The Red Cross also operates 12 mobile feeding vehicles in the tornado zone, serving snacks, lunch, dinner and water. Woods on Thursday said the charity so far had distributed more than 31,000 meals.
At its emergency aid stations, it is distributing cleanup supplies including rakes, gloves and trash cans.
“We’re starting to distribute particulate masks” for demolition and debris removal, Woods said.
He said there are health and mental health workers at aid stations providing basic first aid and emotional support.
Red Cross has yet another category of assistance called “family assistance cases.”
“We work with each family individually, confirming the damage to their home, discussing immediate and long-term needs and ensuring they have applied to the various agencies,” Woods said.
He said the Red Cross can help people replace identification, and find child care support and some emergency financial assistance. The charity also can provide assistance for those with disabilities and other special needs.
Other assistance is not yet easily defined.
The United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas had been a big recipient of tornado-relief donations, including nearly $1 million from Columbia-based businesses and individuals. A committee, including City Manager Mark Rohr, will review storm recovery funding applications and decide which organizations should receive them. The funding may go only to organizations involved in tornado recovery efforts in Joplin.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, part of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, has established a Joplin Recovery Fund for mid- to long-term recovery efforts. The fund received a donation of $50,000 Friday from U.S. Bank.
Brian Fogle, president of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, said that money will go to area nonprofits for assessment and planning. He said individuals may ultimately benefit, but maybe not for a few years. He said Community Foundation funds are locally controlled and they’re flexible. He said a local grants committee is being formed to look at the biggest needs.
“Our experience is that most communities come back stronger than before,” Fogle said.
The first step for those seeking help should be the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It can be reached by calling 800-621-2262 or logging onto www.disasterassistance.gov. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration representatives are on hand at the Disaster Recovery Centers at First United Methodist Church, 501 W. Fourth St.; and at Taylor Performing Arts Center at Missouri Southern State University. Hour are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.
The SBA also has disaster assistance for Joplin businesses available at its Business Recovery Center at the Newman Innovation Center, 320 E. Fourth St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have established a Multi-Agency Resource Center at The Bridge, 3405 Hammons Blvd. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, it is designed to connect tornado victims with social services, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and local, state and federal agencies.
Possibly. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, please do this as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance.