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FEMA disaster assistance deadline extended to March

Tornado damage in Pembroke on Dec. 13.
Dustin Wilcox
Tornado damage in Pembroke on Dec. 13.

The deadline to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster assistance has been extended to Mar. 14.

Anyone who lives within any of the 16 designated counties in western Kentucky and has been impacted by the tornado can apply for FEMA assistance to recoup losses regardless of the extent of the damage.

The deadlines were previously set for Feb. 11. Latanga Hopes, public information officer for FEMA, said her organization extended its deadline at the state’s request to continue addressing the storm damage in western Kentucky.

“We believe that most of the people that have been impacted on a large scale have already applied. That doesn’t mean that we have everyone,” Hope said. “But what we’ve been doing is focusing on people with a small amount of damage that may believe that what’s going on with them may not be as serious as other people.”

Applicants can work toward eligibility and avoid the appeal process by providing accurate information, verifying their identity and responding to any follow-up questions after.

“What we want to do is manage expectations, because it’s not a ‘come one, come all’ situation,” and there is some work that’s required on the applicant’s behalf,” Hopes said. “We want to help, and we want to make sure we get people into that status (eligibility).”

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) logo.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) logo.

Those who are unfamiliar with responding to a disaster can consult FEMA agents or read Kentucky-specific literature for more information.

“You know these things can happen, but they don’t happen often enough for most people to be prepared to say, ‘I’m ready to start recovery and figure these things out,’” Hope said. “So this is why the specialists come in to help. We want to make sure that we help on that level, that we give people the resources.”

Hopes said FEMA focuses on the elements of one’s home that would remain if he or she were to sell it — with some “wiggle room” for essentials such as medication or a laptop — but personal belongings are the domain of the Small Business Association (SBA).

“We partner with SBA because other items may be important to you but not necessarily anything that we would deem necessary,” Hope said. “The beauty in the system is this: Should you get to SBA and be found unqualified, SBA will always send you back to FEMA.”

Although the deadline for SBA physical damage loans for businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters elapsed on Feb. 10, SBA Public Information Officer AJ Rodriguez-Targa said it’s likely the deadline could be extended in the near future.

FEMA assistance comes in the form of a forgivable, non-taxable grant that does not impede on state embellishments like EBT, whereas SBA assistance is an interest-accruing loan.

Individuals can apply for FEMA assistance or an SBA loan online.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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