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Officials are urging homeowners and renters in southern Indiana to seek federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover the cost of property that was damaged or lost during the severe flooding earlier this year.

Residents in Harrison, Floyd, Clark and Jefferson counties are encouraged to visit local disaster recovery centers to register for grants from FEMA. The grants will help homeowners and renters pay for fixing or replacing property that was damaged or lost during the floods.

Shirley Tracey, FEMA’s public information officer, said the affected counties in Indiana have received over $1.9 million in aid, and 1,600 households have applied for assistance. The affected counties include counties in both southern and northern Indiana. Tracey said the money will help cover some of the costs for homeowners and renters’ damaged or lost property.

“What FEMA is, is a helping hand for people,” Tracey said. “We don’t put their life back in order the way it was pre-disaster. We don’t rebuild their home the way it was before the disaster. FEMA’s really just a helping hand to get people started in the process of recovering after a disaster.”

The temporary disaster recovery centers opened after President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the area in early May. Since then, five centers in Indiana have opened. The closest center in southern Indiana is in Jeffersonville.

The declaration came nearly two months after the storms and flooding ended. Tracey said it isn’t uncommon for declarations to be issued several weeks after the actual disaster. In the case of floods, the state must inspect the damage before the governor can request federal assistance. If the damage is too much for the state to cover, then the president can issue a major disaster declaration.

Shirley said currently, FEMA is primarily providing reimbursements. She said many of the affected individuals have already paid to fix the damage or replace lost items. To receive compensation for those costs, individuals will need to show FEMA investigators receipts and evidence of the damage.

“Now in this situation, because as I said, many people have already moved on to recover from the flood, then they would be providing perhaps documentation like recipients for repairs, photographs of damage as opposed to the inspector actually looking at the situation,” Tracey said.

Troy York, a FEMA media specialist, said there are three ways to apply for assistance: calling the FEMA phone number, visiting the FEMA website or going to a disaster relief center. He said he would encourage everyone who was affected by the floods to apply as soon as possible.

Tracey echoed that sentiment.

“We definitely expect to see more [applicants],” Tracey said. “We encourage people to register as soon as possible, to not wait.”

The application requires several documents including proof of home ownership or renter’s lease, insurance papers, address, damage description and bank account or routing numbers for the funds to be deposited.

Tracey said although the application does not take long to complete, it can be difficult for prospective applicants to find the documents they need, particularly in a flood.

“The most difficult part is they have to have their paperwork, and often people have lost paperwork in a flood,” Tracey said.

York cautioned people to be aware of people pretending to be FEMA inspectors. He said during disasters, some people impersonate FEMA inspectors and ask for funds before inspecting the house in a fraud attempt.

“Any appropriate FEMA individual will have on FEMA gear and will have on a photo ID,” York said. “Under no circumstances will FEMA ever ask for funds.”

York said the last day to apply for assistance is July 4, although that date may change. Those interested in applying for assistance can find more information on FEMA’s website. The addresses for the disaster recovery centers are also listed online.

FEMA recently operated a roving recovery center in New Albany that was open for three days. Tracey said there are plans to open another roving recovery center soon.