Federal disaster aid now available to area residents

By Carrie A. Mizell
Gilchrist County was deemed a disaster area last week in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby, which caused major flooding along the Santa Fe River.
Residents affected by flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Debby, can now apply for federal disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Gilchrist County was one of 22 counties in Florida designated for individual assistance.

According to David Peaton, director of Gilchrist County Emergency Management, four local residents living along the Santa Fe River have already had their flooded homes inspected by FEMA officials.
Areas affected by flooding in Gilchrist County include homes along the Santa Fe River near Ginnie Springs, homes along the Gilchrist/Suwannee county line, homes near Hart Springs, and The Cottages at Suwannee Preserve homes, Peaton explained.
“All roads in Gilchrist County are open,” Peaton said on Monday. “But there are still some people displaced due to clean up efforts at their homes.”
Residents and business owners who sustained damages or losses in Gilchrist County, and surrounding counties, are now eligible for financial assistance for temporary housing, essential home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance.
Renters, homeowners and business owners can register for help by calling 800-621-3362. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Registration can also be completed online by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov.
Gilchrist County residents can also travel to the nearest Disaster Recovery Center, which is located in Columbia County in the Westfield Shopping Center in Lake City. The physical address is 484 SW Commerce Drive, Lake City.
Applying for disaster aid requires very little paperwork, but residents or business owners will need their social security number, private insurance information, if available, address and zip code of the damaged property, directions to the damaged home or property, daytime telephone number, and a mailing address.
Low-interest disaster loans are also available through the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with residential and business losses not covered by insurance.
To learn more about SBA disaster loans, call 800-659-2955 or go online to www.sba.gov.
As of Monday, $16 million had been approved in grant money through FEMA for residents and business owners affected by Tropical Storm Debby.
According to Anne Waggoner, public information officer for FEMA, federal aid is also now available to homeowners and business owners who have suffered damages due to sinkholes in the areas deemed a disaster throughout the state of Florida.
Just within the city of Live Oak, in neighboring Suwannee County, Waggoner indicated that 35 sink holes opened up as a result of Tropical Storm Debby.