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The Daily



07-16-03: Area eligible for flood aid

Bush declares disaster in Mercer, Auglaize

The Daily Standard

    West Central Ohio will get federal assistance in recovering from the Independence Day flooding.
    Mercer County officials learned about 4 p.m. Tuesday that President George W. Bush has declared the area a federal disaster area. Mercer, Auglaize, Van Wert, Darke, Shelby and Logan counties now join 21 Indiana counties that have been targeted for federal assistance.
    "This is fantastic news for the public and the people affected by the flood," said Karl Kaiser, Mercer County's emergency management director.
    Bush's declaration means local flood victims can apply for a new range of financial assistance. The help includes an individual assistance program that can provide flood victims with up to $15,000 in assistance. The federal Small Business Administra-tion will be able to provide low-interest loans to home and business owners affected by the flood. There also will be assistance for people displaced from their homes or jobs due to the flood.
    Kaiser said the presidential declaration would open the door for future flood mitigation money to help local officials protect some vulnerable areas from future flooding.
    All the federal programs are based on need, Kaiser said. People can apply immediately by calling 1-800-621-3362. For those who want to apply in person, county officials expect to open an application center within the next few days, Kaiser said.
    Presidents often visit the areas they deem to be disasters, but Kaiser said he does not expect Bush to come to the area.
    Local officials still are hoping the White House decides to open another available funding stream to help flood victims. The public assistance program would make available even more money to assist with different flood-related needs, Kaiser said. State and federal officials still are working locally to help make that decision.
    This marks at least the fifth time the federal government has stepped in to provide local assistance after a natural disaster, Kaiser said. The area has twice been helped for past flooding, and on another occasion for tornado- and wind-related damage. The federal government also stepped in in 1978 to provide money for snow removal when the area was paralyzed by the blizzard.
    A number of Ohio congressmen and state lawmakers have intervened in recent days to help make the case for federal assistance.
    "The record amount of rain, wind and flooding has severely impacted the private- and public-sector infrastructure," Sen. Mike DeWine wrote in a letter to Bush. "We furthermore understand that the damage has been severe enough that the outpouring of local, state and voluntary efforts still leaves significant needs unmet and that federal assistance is necessary."
    Kaiser said he is impressed with the speed of the federal response.
    "I think we're about a week ahead of schedule. Things have moved pretty fast," Kaiser said.


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