This Thursday (Aug. 31) is the first deadline for Ohio residents affected by two major flooding events this summer to apply for federal aid. For some, it's just a matter of a few thousand dollars in insurance money to fix a wet basement. But for others, the struggle to rebuild is still a long way from over.
Roseanna Belon: This was the garage. That was the laundry room. I had cabinets in there - they ripped out all the cabinets. This was the door to get into the house.
Roseanna Belon used to live in this small, two-story condominium built in the 1970's on the banks of the Grand River in Painesville. But no more. The July 28th storm that turned the Grand River into a raging torrent completely flooded her house and those of 37 other owners at Millstone Condominiums. Now Belon and a group of volunteers are ripping out sodden drywall and flooring, taking this once snug little home down to the studs. Janet Mills with the Scranton Road Bible Church in Cleveland is one of the volunteers. Wearing work boots, a face mask and long rubber gloves, she wields her hammer with authority. Mills says she spent time in New Orleans helping Katrina flood victims.
Janet Mills: This is a lot like that. I hate to see people go through this and not get the help they need.
Roseanna Belon: They're amazing, these people are amazing. It's just breathtaking. These people, these volunteers. Oh, my God.
Belon is grateful for the help she's getting, but she's still overwhelmed by the magnitude of her loss. Although she has two policies for flood insurance on her condo and has registered for federal disaster relief from FEMA, she has yet to see a dime. Belon says both insurance companies and the government are telling her they can't make a payout until she knows how much money she'll get from each source.
Roseanna Belon: Because it would be like double-paying insurance and they can't do that. And I understand that, but in the meantime...what am I supposed to do? It's been three weeks. I got nothing. And I have no house.
It may be another month before condo association managers and city officials decide whether to rebuild or demolish Belon's home. But while Belon and others are still struggling with clean-up, thousands of Ohioans affected by flooding this summer have already received government help. C.J. Couch, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, says more than $14 million has been sent to the nearly 12,000 people who registered for federal help after the late June floods that caused damage in six northern Ohio counties, among them Cuyahoga. He says so far about 5,000 people have applied for FEMA grants and loans following the second disaster in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties.
C.J. Couch: What we've seen in northern Ohio both in the first disaster and in the second disaster, is that money is going out to the people. FEMA has already issued for the second disaster more than $6 million in assistance checks.
Couch admits the money won't be enough to replace everything that was lost or to fully compensate owners for costs of repairs and rebuilding. In fact, FEMA denied assistance to hundreds of residents in Ashtabula County who suffered losses in an earlier storm, because the damage occurred before the official disaster was declared. But Couch says residents should register anyway, so that if the disaster period is extended, they'll be still eligible for federal help. Karen Schaefer, 90.3.