Shortly after the December tornadoes hit Hopkins County, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived on the ground to offer assistance.

Roberto Baltodano, the Division B media specialist for FEMA, said the federal agency provides grant money, which is money Kentuckians do not have to pay back.

“This is not a federal handout. This is your tax dollars at work,” he said. “We encourage everyone who needs assistance to seek and apply that assistance.”

The money is for people affected by natural disasters to be able to make basic home repairs and to replace or repair personal property that may have been damaged or destroyed by the tornado. He said it can also be used for medical care if there were injuries caused by the disaster, to replace clothing and occupational tools.

“One thing we know about this area is that there are quite a lot of people out there with equipment and occupational tools and educational materials,” said Baltodano. “Those essential items that the person had at home and need to get back to their immediate life, that is what we help them with.”

Along with home repairs and replacing essential household items, FEMA also helps with temporary housing.

“We can provide them with funds for them to be able to pay that temporary housing while their home is being repaired,” said Baltodano.

As of Jan. 9, FEMA had approved $9.2 million in assistance and have placed that in the hands of Kentuckians.

“72% of that money has gone to housing assistance,” he said.

There are 16 counties that have been declared disaster areas, and one of them is Hopkins County. To apply for FEMA assistance, the person applying has to live in the county, and the property being claimed has to be in the disaster area.

“You also have to be either a homeowner or renter,” said Baltodano.

When applying for FEMA assistance, the resident will need to provide a photo ID to establish identity and residency. He said if someone does not have a photo ID, the state is making it possible to expedite that.

A resident applying for FEMA can also go to the local sheriff’s office, to a judge, or someone who can issue an affidavit stating that you are who you say you are and you resided at your residence at the time of the disaster.

“You can also bring us a piece of mail, a copy of a power bill, or an insurance policy,” said Baltodano.

He said the funds are only to be used for disaster-related expenses and not discretionary expenses like travel, entertainment, or regular living expenses.

None U.S. citizens can apply for FEMA assistance, but a member of the family has to be a U.S. Citizen, he said. A son or daughter, if they were born in the U.S., can apply on behalf of their parents.

Baltodano said FEMA gives equitable access to everyone, whether they speak a different language or if the person applying has a disability. He said they will work with the applicant to find the best way to help them, whether that finding someone who speaks their language or going to the applicant.

Once the application is accepted, an inspector will be in contact to schedule a home or apartment inspection to verify the losses claimed in the application.

Once the inspection is complete, the money will be sent via mail within 10 days, or if the applicant includes their banking information, then it will be within two or three days of the inspection.

He said direct deposit into a checking or savings account is the fastest way to get the FEMA money. If someone does not have access to a banking account and they do not have a mailbox, they can work with their local post office to hold their mail.

All FEMA employees have an official government ID that they show to residents, which has a picture and their name. Baltodano said FEMA never charges for any services, nor do they ask for copies of information.

A resident can use that ID to call the local authorities to verify that it is a FEMA employee.

“We are supposed to wait until that authority confirms who we are,” said Baltodano. “If that person does not feel comfortable waiting, chances are that person is not a FEMA representative.”

The deadline to file for FEMA assistance is midnight Feb. 11. He encourages everyone to apply as soon as possible because February is the firm deadline.

He wants to make sure that if FEMA needs more information the applicant will be able to send it in before the Feb. 11 deadline.

“The earlier the better to apply,” said Baltodano. “Even if they don’t have everything, submit the application, let the denial letter come in while you get your information straightened out.”

Residents can apply for disaster assistance online at disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA app for android or Apple. They can also go to one of the disaster recovery centers for help with the application.

There are two disaster recovery centers in Hopkins County, one is at Mike’s Old Pharmacy on 104 South Lee Trover Todd Jr. Highway in Earlington, and the other is the Community Center at 108 West Keigan Street in Dawson Springs. For a complete list of disaster recovery centers, visit FEMA.gov/drc.

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