Today Is Last Day For CNMI Residents To File For Disaster Aid

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FEMA deadline comes with nearly 8,700 applicants so far

By Frauleine S. Villanueva

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 5, 2015) – Today is the last day for the public to register for individual assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, marking 60 days after the declaration of a major disaster in the Commonwealth.

"We want to make sure that everybody that needs to register get it done. Oct. 5th is the deadline," federal coordinating officer Stephen M. DeBlasio Sr. said.

FEMA may accept late registration, provided it is justified, DeBlasio said.

"If, for some reason, someone has a reasonable explanation as to why they didn’t register in time, either on my authority or my deputy’s authority, we can actually accept a late registration. But it would have to be justified as to why they would not have known after all the broadcasting that we’ve done about the process," DeBlasio said.

As of Friday, 8,690 have registered for FEMA individual assistance. In Saturday’s update, 4,460 applications were approved.

FEMA has approved over $15.6 million in housing assistance and over $6.8 million in other needs assistance, bringing the current total assistance under the individual and households program to over $22.4 million.

FEMA’s individual assistance is available to U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens with disaster-related damage on Saipan; however, they continue to encourage everyone to apply.

FEMA said they will refer those who they were not able to help to other organizations and organizations can also get information from them.

"CARE, Red Cross, they can come to us for information on these individuals so that they can see who we helped, who we didn’t help, how much we are able to help them and to hopefully meet those unmet needs, the gaps between what we can do and what the voluntary agencies can pick up and continue to support," DeBlasio said.

FEMA will keep the Disaster Recovery Center in the Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe open until Oct. 9. After that, those who have queries, issues, appeals, and follow-ups on their assistance application may call FEMA’s toll free number.

"After the [Oct.] 9th the DRC folks on the FEMA side of the house will be demobilized. We’re looking at, possibly, right now the Small Business Administration continuing to run what they call a Disaster Loan Operation Center or DLOC," DeBlasio said.

Public assistance

FEMA has also already started reimbursing public or government projects under the public assistance program.

"The public assistance program is working rapidly right now," DeBlasio said. "FEMA is going to reimburse at a minimum, 90 percent of what it cost to rebuild public infrastructure."

As of Saturday, over $706,000 was already obligated under the Public Assistance Categories A-B or Emergency Work. According to FEMA, these are works "that must be performed to reduce or eliminate an immediate threat to life, protect public health and safety, and to protect improved property that is significantly threatened due to disasters or emergencies declared by the President."

Under Categories C-G or Permanent Work, more than $4,300 has been obligated so far. These are work "required to restore a damaged facility, through repair or restoration, to its pre-disaster design, function, and capacity in accordance with applicable codes and standards."

"Obligated" means that the funds were made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of public assistance projects.

"We probably have a couple of million dollars that are about to be released," DeBlasio said.

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