State delays registration for flood assistance

Aid waits for out-of-state contractors to arrive

The state disaster office has pushed back the start date for individual grant assistance registration for state aid for those affected by the October Kenai flooding because of a staffing shortage.

 

The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Tuesday said they scrapped plans to open Disaster Assistance Centers, online registration and telephone registration the week of Dec. 2 to allow for out-of-state contractors to arrive and be properly trained on procedures.

The division now hopes to open registration the week of Dec. 8.

“That is our plan at this time,” said state emergency management spokesperson Jeremy Zidek. “There may be changes.”

With two other disasters declared in the Interior and on the West Coast, the Kenai Peninsula is expected see help first.

Zidek said it’s not unusual for the state to take a few weeks to get things rolling with disaster assistance.

State emergency management has contracted with Adjusters International, a company with 45 offices around the country, including three in Oregon and one in Seattle. A call to their office Tuesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

With Gov. Sean Parnell’s Nov. 18 declaration of the Oct. 28 flooding on the Kenai Peninsula as a disaster, the clock started ticking for those affected to apply for State Individual Assistance, which covers renters, homeowners and private businesses affected by the October flood.

Kenai Peninsula Borough officials estimated that 120 homes were affected by the flooding and that $2.1 million in damages occurred to private property from flooded septic systems, flooded basements, furnaces and tainted wells.

Some local architects and engineers believe that additional damage to foundations and other residential infrastructure might come from the freeze that came before the water could recede.

With the 60-day clock ticking to apply for grants open, the state plans to host a three-day Disaster Assistance Center at the borough’s office of Emergency Management at 144 N. Binkley in Soldotna during the Week of Dec. 8.

Zidek said that the assistance center is the best way for individual claims to be registered. He expects the hours to be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., once it opens.

Depending on demand, the assistance center can stay open longer, Zidek said. There is also the ability to extend the 60-day registration deadline by 30 days, he said.

While individual claims wait, the state has been working with the borough on claims of damage to public property and infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

“Public assistance is much more straightforward,” Zidek said.

Zidek said the agency cannot yet give out the phone number for the call center or website for online registration. That information will be provided when the state knows its contractors are in place and ready to handle what is expected to be a large volume of calls, he said.

Until registration opens residents and homeowners should gather lists of damages of any type and receipts for repairs already made. Among the list of items the state will be looking for during registration in person, online or over the phone are identification, insurance papers and claims, current living situation and estimates for repairs.

State verification teams will investigate claims and payments will be based on “cost sheets.”

“Each application will be evaluated on a case by case basis,” Zidek said.

A complete outline of Individual Assistance is available at http://ready.alaska.gov/recovery/IndividualAssistance.

Damage from the Kenai flooding reached its peak during the heavy rains of Oct. 27 and 28, though at least 30 homes suffered from a slow moving high-ground-water event in the months prior. According to state emergency management officials only damages from the two days in October will qualify for assistance, which can reach a maximum of $15,834.50 per household.

Previously, borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he thought it would be difficult of investigators to determine if damage was from the months prior to Oct. 28

“We strongly encourage everyone to apply for state individual assistance,” Zidek said.

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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