"All of Berks County has been declared a disaster area," said Kevin Galvin, public affairs officer for FEMA. "We encourage anyone who experienced flood damage during that time to apply for assistance."

According to Galvin, Berks County as been approved for both individual and public assistance. Individual assistance is available for homeowners, renters, and business owners and business renters.

"The first step is to apply by phone," said Galvin. "Then an inspector will come to view the damage. Be sure if you have already made repairs, that you provide documentation and receipts."

Those who want to apply should call 1-800-462-9029. For those who are speech or hearing impaired, call TDY 1-800462-7585.

Galvin advises callers to have the following information before making the call:

. Social Security number (including spouse)

. Address and zip code of the damaged property

. Directions to the damaged home or property

. Telephone numbers where the caller can be reached

. Pre-disaster gross income of the household

The individual assistance program provides eligible residents with disaster housing assistance, low-interest loans to repair or replace storm-damaged property, and grants for serious needs and necessary expenses not met by other programs including personal or homeowner insurance.

In addition to individual assistance, FEMA will provide federal funds for 75 percent of approved costs of debris removal, public assistance to counties, towns, and municipalities for reimbursement of costs involved with repairs to or replacement of public facilities like roads and bridges, and for storm-related emergency services such as police, fire, search and rescue.

Galvin indicated that it could take between five and seven days for scheduling an inspection of damaged property. "We are fortunate in

that we have inspectors already in the area because of the damage done to Bucks and Montgomery counties," he said. "We handled more than 1,600 inspections in Bucks and Montgomery counties in ten to 14 days."

Among the 17 disaster assistance programs offered are the following:

. Disaster Housing Assistance Program: FEMA may provide assistance for any individual or family whose residence has been made uninhabitable as a result of the disaster. Assistance may be funds for alternate rental housing, or to make essential repairs required to make the residence habitable.

. Individual and Family Grant Program: Grants up to $14,400 for eligible disaster victims to meet serious disaster related needs or necessary expenses not covered by other disaster assistance programs or insurance.

. Home/Personal Property Disaster Loans: This type of loan comes through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and are available to homeowners or renters for restoring or replacing disaster damaged real and personal property. For homeowners, the maximum real estate portion of the loan is $200,000 and for personal property, $40,000. Renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

. Disaster Unemployment Assistance: Provides weekly benefit payments to those out of work due to the disaster, including self-employed persons, farm workers, farm and ranch owners and others not covered by regular unemployment programs.

. Business Disaster Loans: SBA disaster loans are available to businesses to repair or replace destroyed or damaged business facilities, inventory, machines or equipment. Maximum amount is $1.5 million.

. Social Security Benefits: The Social Security Administration (SSA) will expedite delivery of checks delayed by the disaster. SSA will provide assistance in applying for Social Security disability and survivor benefits.

Galvin urged people with storm and flood damage to "apply immediately to get the process going and questions answered." The closing date for applications is August 20.

FEMA and PEMA personnel are operating from offices at the North American Technology Center at the former site of the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pa. For information call the Helpline at 1-800-525-0321; for those who are hearing or speech impaired call: TCY 1-800-462-7585.

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