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Flood-hit residents get federal aid

Nearly nine out of 10 applicants are receiving some federal disaster aid to pay for damage caused by last month's flooding, state and federal emergency officials said Thursday.

And the average award -- more than $6,000 -- is larger than those issued to victims of other recent natural disasters in New York, the officials said.

"The amounts have been much higher than you typically would expect, and it denotes that the damage was substantial," Jaime E. Forero, the federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's efforts, said at a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board.

Officials from FEMA and the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) urged residents of Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties who suffered flooding damage in the Aug. 9 and 10 storms to register with FEMA.

That's the first step in the process to obtain federal disaster aid, and 517 residents had done so as of Wednesday, FEMA reported, though it is likely hundreds more are eligible for aid.

"It doesn't come automatically. People have to get in the queue," said John R. Gibb, SEMO's director and the state coordinating officer for this disaster.

The federal disaster assistance -- approved last week for governments, businesses, nonprofit agencies and homeowners -- is meant to supplement private flood insurance.

State and federal emergency employees have met with local officials to explain the reimbursement process and they are reaching out to residents and business owners.

Residents and business owners have until Nov. 4 to register for disaster aid. They can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362.

Slightly less than $1.6 million has been awarded to residents, and between 85 percent and 90 percent of applications have been approved, Forero said.

"From the time of the designation to the time money flowed was three or four days," Forero said.

The average award of more than $6,000 is far more than the $2,000 or $3,000 issued on average to victims of other recent disasters in the state, Gibb said.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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