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Government Poised To Help Gloria Victims, But Aid Limited

September 30, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The federal government is poised to help victims of Hurricane Gloria, but most aid for individuals and businesses would be low-interest loans, not outright grants, officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday.

Joe D. Winkle, assistant associate director for disaster assistance programs, said federal-state teams have begun surveying damages in several states to determine if President Reagan should declare any counties disaster areas, opening the door for a wide range of federal aid.

Even without a formal disaster declaration, federal loans may be made available to homeowners, businesses and farmers whose property or crops were damaged by the hurricane late last week, Winkle said.

But Winkle and Samuel W. Speck, associate director for state and local programs, warned hurricane victims not to expect to receive much aid that won’t have to be repaid.

And Speck said that for homeowners and businesses, private insurance should be the first step in getting money to rebuild.

The person without insurance, or whose coverage is not enough to make up for losses, is the one who will be hit the hardest, he said.

″You suddenly see them kind of turn pale when they realize they are going to have to pay off that loan from SBA (Small Business Administration) and hey are still going to have to pay off the mortgage loan on that house that may have been totally dsstroyed,″ Speck said.

The SBA administers the loan program for homeowners and businesses. Under the program, which can be put into effect even without a full-scale disaster declaration, homeowners can obtain loans of up to $100,000 for a house and $20,000 for contents. Businesses can get loans of up to $500,000.

Farmers whose crops were damaged may also be eligible for low-cost loans through the Farmers Home Administration with or without a full-scale declaration.

A full-scale presidential disaster declaration also opens the door to other forms of aid, including temporary housing assistance and a limited amount for grants.

Speck said grants of up to $5,000 can be provided to families whose needs cannot be met through loans or other types of aid, including assistance of private charities.

But Winkle stressed, ″That grant is a last resort″ that would go to a very small number of disaster victims. The amount usually is far less than the $5,000 maximum, he said.

A full-scale disaster declaration will be issued only if damage surveys show that the destruction is too much for local and state governments to handle on their own, Speck said.

SBA and Farmers’ Home Administration aid sometimes is made available if damage is serious enough to require it, but not so severe or widespread as to require a disaster declaration, the officials said.

Speck said declarations rarely are issued on a statewide basis, but instead are limited to specific counties hardest hit by a disaster, such as a hurricane, tornado or flood.

A disaster declaration, in addition to providing a broader range of aid to individuals, also can mean federal help to state and local governments to fix roads and bridges and replace or repair damaged public buildings, he said.

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