Oklahoma Disaster Declaration

Oklahoma counties under the Oklahoma Disaster Declaration are marked on the map provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA and Small Business Administration have Disaster Recovery Centers set up in 10 counties, including the one in Peggs for four days.

Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration are working to help residents of Cherokee County recover from tornadoes, storms and flooding.

Both agencies will be present at the Disaster Recovery Center opening Friday in Peggs. It is one of 10 centers in Oklahoma.

"No matter what your damage is or what county you live in, you can go to any of them," said Alex Bruner, FEMA spokesperson.

Bruner said people may move when disaster strikes their homes, so the agencies want to meet survivors were they are.

The Cherokee County Disaster Recovery Center will be open at the Peggs Public School, 10821 W. Hickory Ave., for only three days: Friday, July 5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday and Monday, July 6 and 8, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will not be open Sunday.

Centers in other counties may stay open indefinitely, such as the one at Gore High School, 12 N. Highway 10, which will be open seven days a week, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. These centers offer residents the opportunity to see what programs are available, to apply, to check the status of applications, to learn about preparing for future storms, and more.

FEMA is offering housing repair grants for homeowners and renters who may be underinsured or uninsured. The funds can be used to cover the costs of storage, moving, cleaning, repairs or replacement. As of press time, only 66 people have registered for FEMA assistance. Around $50,000 has been provided to people affected in Cherokee County, according to Bruner. In Sequoyah County, there have been 108 applications and $577,000 provided in grants.

Multiple ways to apply or check on applications include: telephone, internet, FEMA phone app, and the DRCs. Assistance for those who are deaf or blind is also available.

Those interested in applying for programs should bring the following items with them, if available: personal ID, Social Security card, address to damaged property and proof of residency, current address, and phone number. Bank routing and account numbers will be required to sign up for direct deposit, if the application is approved. Those without bank accounts will be given a check.

"Having as much information as possible is great, but we don't want people to miss out because they don't think they have everything,"said Louise Porter, public information officer with the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance.

If papers have been lost or water damaged, FEMA or SBA officials can provide information on who to contact for replacements.

"We encourage everyone to apply now in case they run into difficulties before the July 31 deadline," said Bruner. "They have to have time to get the information in."

Those who have already filed a claim for homeowner's insurance should bring the claim or policy information.

"We can't duplicate what's covered under the insurance, but we can serve the underinsured," said Bruner.

The person applying for assistance does not have to be the head of the household, but two people from the same household cannot apply for the same property. People who have already begun repairs should take photos of the repairs and bring receipts. This information can be uploaded to the person's case file.

A few factors that may prevent applications from getting approved would be that people can't provide proof of ownership of the home or that it was their primary residence, or if they check on the application they are not willing to move while the home is being repaired.

"We'll move you to a hotel and pay for the hotel. It's not a move to another state," said Bruner. "Returning back to normalcy is one of the biggest challenges to survivors. Recovery looks different to everyone."

Bruner said if a FEMA application is deemed ineligible, other assistance programs may be available or further documentation may be required.

While FEMA is offering grants to qualified homeowners and renters, the Small Business Administration has low-interest loans available to those who qualify. The three types of disaster loans include: Home Disaster Loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and Business Physical Disaster Loans.

"People should apply because sometimes it works out more than they think," said Porter. "Even if they are denied, there may be some sort of recourse."

The SBA loans have interest as low as 1.9 percent for qualified homeowners and renters.

"It's a very small amount added every month to help people rebuild their lives," said Porter. "The loans come directly from the Treasury, not from a bank."

The Home Disaster Loans are for homeowners and renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate or personal property, including vehicles, according to the SBA fact sheet.

"The vehicle had to have been registered to drive on roads," said Porter.

The Business Physical Disaster Loans are offered to businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations, such as charities and churches. The property can include real estate, supplies, inventory, equipment and machinery.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans are capital loans to help qualified businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits to meet "their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster," according to the SBA.

"It's specifically for businesses, to help pay necessary expenses through the recovery period," said Porter. "A lot of times, business owners make it work for a little while, but then they realize they need assistance. It can help a business stay afloat until things get back to normal."

Rental properties are also considered businesses.

"A landlord is potentially eligible for funds to rehabilitate that home," said Porter. "Renters should remember that a landlord's insurance doesn't cover the renter's property."

Business owners will want to have current financial and tax information available for the application.

While SBA does not offer programs for agricultural enterprises, farmers and ranchers can get assistance for their primary residences and the access roads to those residences. To learn about agricultural programs, they should contact the local Farm Bureau or U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Like FEMA, SBA loans can't be used to cover the same damage being claimed on insurance claims.

"It must be uncompensated damage. Sometimes people don't want to tap into insurance," said Porter. "One of the nice things is that it can kick in before the insurance begins. They don't have to fight insurance, or if insurance comes in late, it can be used to pay back the loan. There is no prepayment or early payment penalty."

Those who apply and get approved for SBA loans have up to six months after approval to decide if they want the loan, according to Porter.

Those who are not approved for the SBA programs will be referred back to FEMA for another program. So, those impacted should start with FEMA, then apply with SBA. The SBA application must be on file to be referred, even if the applicant was ineligible or denied the loan.

One priority of FEMA's strategic plan is to build a culture of preparedness, according to Bruner.

"Even those who have received assistance, should come talk to hazard mitigation at the Disaster Recovery Center. They can give tips to make a home more flood resilient, what type of nails to buy, or how to elevate a house or utilities," said Bruner.

"Anyone can come and talk with them. We want people to be prepared for the next flood or storm."

Get help

Those unable to visit a Disaster Recovery Center can call FEMA at 800-621-3362, and SBA at 800-659-2955. Information is available at www.disasterassistance.gov.