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Residents vie for piece of tornado cash pie

The Brooklyn Paper
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Tornado-ravaged residents of Brooklyn have been knocking on Uncle Sam’s door looking for some cash — and it looks like he has finally answered.

This week, $300,000 will begin trickling into the area — an amount that will grow as more people apply, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration spokeswoman Barbara Lynch.

“The money is coming real soon,” said Lynch. “The issue now is to get people who suffered damage to apply, and we will take care of the rest.”

Getting residents to come and get the cash didn’t appear to be too much of a problem.

That’s because as of Wednesday, 539 Brooklyn residents had already filed an application with FEMA and 192 residents had visited the agency’s 59th Street field office. The grant amount that has already been approved is at $291,938.

Grants provided by the federal government do not need to be paid back.

The Small Business Administration has also approved 17 applications for home loans of $537,700.

Lynch said that more loans would be issued if more people would send their paperwork back. Out of 1,555 applications that went out, fewer than 20 were returned.

Residents should apply, she said, because now that Uncle Sam’s wallet has been pried open, getting the cash is easy.

After residents fill out the paperwork, a FEMA inspector will call to arrange a good time to stop by and verify the damage — and two weeks later, a check should arrive.

“The complicated part is over,” added Lynch.

But it wasn’t always this simple.

After the Aug. 8 storm, FEMA sent inspectors to the hardest-hit areas — a concentric circle around 67th Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues. Though hundreds of cars and roofs were destroyed, President Bush initially only awarded relief funds to Queens, where more than 1,000 homes were flooded.

Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) kept the heat on federal officials until they changed course two weeks ago and designated Bay Ridge for “federal disaster assistance.”

Though typically a conservative who favors small government, Fossella was in the uncomfortable position of thanking the feds for throwing money at the crisis.

“The large number of Brooklyn residents who have already applied for assistance demonstrates that … the federal government has an important role to play in helping our borough recover,” said Fossella.

But FEMA may still be suffering from some post-Katrina hangover, according to at least one resident.

Ida Thomas, who lives at 7209 Narrows Ave., said she applied to FEMA two weeks ago, but the agency keep sending her loan applications instead of applications for grants.

“It is kind of frustrating, because I don’t know if I will even qualify for the loans,” Thomas said. “I have $10,000 worth of damage that isn’t covered by insurance and could really use the help.”

Residents must register with FEMA by Oct. 30. at The Bay Ridge center (552 59th Street, at Sixth Avenue) or by phone at (800) 621-FEMA.

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