Connecticut in line for federal aid

Washington - Several federal disaster assistance programs have become available to residents of southern Connecticut in the wake of the damage inflicted by megastorm Sandy. The programs are intended in large part to deal with housing and property damage caused by the storm, and may even help the lights come back on a little faster for those still without power.

Four counties - New London, Middlesex, Fairfield and New Haven - as well as the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes - are eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Damage assessments are being conducted in Connecticut's four remaining counties to determine whether a case could be made for a federal disaster declaration, which would release FEMA aid in those counties as well.

In addition, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday that President Obama has approved other types of assistance to Connecticut over the next 10 days. This includes reimbursement to the National Guard to assist in emergency power restoration and to provide emergency public transportation and other essential support.

"As we continue with the recovery process from Hurricane Sandy, I am very appreciative of President Obama's commitment to the State of Connecticut and its residents," Malloy said in a press release. He also reminded affected residents, "It is critical to note that you must register with FEMA to begin the process of accessing federal assistance."

Residents in currently eligible counties can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362. Once an individual has registered, the agency will determine what type of relief assistance is available to him or her.

Temporary housing and grants for home repairs or property replacement are common forms of federal assistance after a major storm. Other forms of assistance available to individuals in disaster areas include grants to help meet medical, dental, transportation and funeral needs; unemployment benefits for those temporarily out of work because of the storm; low-interest loans to cover residential losses or business property losses; and loans to small businesses, farmers and ranchers.

Other FEMA programs include crisis counseling, tax assistance and legal advice for those affected by the storm. Additionally, the agency will provide aid to government for debris removal, emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation projects.

Malloy noted via Twitter that FEMA disaster recovery centers are opening up around the state.

Foreclosure protection is also available to Connecticut homeowners in the eligible regions through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures for Federal Housing Administration-insured homes, HUD is making mortgage insurance available to victims, providing home rehabilitation assistance and offering Section 108 loans to state and local governments for housing and development needs.

HUD will also provide the state with a Community Development Block Grant which, according to the department's website, may "help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources."

Connecticut will also receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to repair damaged roads and bridges. The Connecticut congressional delegation stated in a press release that the funding "will be enormously helpful in returning a semblance of normalcy to the state."

Aid is also available from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is offering disaster loans for home owners and renters to repair or replace damaged real estate and personal property. The agency is also offering loans of up to $2 million for businesses and private non-profit organizations to repair or replace real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.

Another type of assistance, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, is available to help meet working capital needs for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most nonprofit organizations affected by the storm, whether or not they suffered actual property damage.

These loans have low interest rates that are determined based on the financial condition of individual applicants.

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