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FEMA, SBA assistance awarded

Boardman office set to close

BOARDMAN — A disaster assistance center is closing its Boardman office that offered help to people applying for disaster relief, after assisting individuals and businesses in acquiring nearly $4 million in grants and low-interest loans from the SBA and FEMA in the wake of Memorial Day weekend flooding.

More than $700,000 was awarded in Federal Emergency Management grants to 983 people. The money that does not have to be paid back. The Small Business Adminstration received 250 applications from business owners and homeowners and distributed about $3.2 million in loans. Not all of the applications were awarded.

While the process to get assistance for individuals is coming to a close, Boardman is still working on securing more funds to help mitigate possible problems in the future.

Because the storm system that generated tornadoes in other Ohio counties and flooding in Mahoning County was declared a federal disaster, grants to assist local governments are available across the state, said Dennis O’Hara, head of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.

“So far we have been awarded one grant for a total of $250,000, which will be used to acquire three parcels, and demolish one home that experiences chronic flooding. We will be re-grading the property to allow the natural watercourse to engage its flood plain,” said Marilyn Sferra Kenner, the township’s road superintendent.

After getting permission from a homeowner and paying fair market value for the property, the ownership of a chronically flooding home can be transferred to the community and demolished, O’Hara said.

“If there is documented repetitive flooding, after it is purchased with grant money, it can be torn down. But, it can never be developed again. The jurisdiction could turn it into greenspace or put in a retention pond so it does not continue flooding in the future,” O’Hara said.

Kenner said in addition to the funding the township already received, “We have been invited to submit a full application for acquisition and demolition of an additional three homes.”

The deadline for the application is Nov. 18 and the township is asking for $750,000.

And, the township put in a pre-application for 14 homes within a FEMA flood zone, Kenner said.

“We expect to hear from Ohio Emergency Management Agency soon to see if we have been invited to submit full applications for these projects,” Kenner said.

And, the Austintown Boardman Canfield (ABC) Water and Storm Water District hired a consultant to conduct a study of all of the storm sewer systems within Boardman, as well as stream inspections and monitoring, Kenner said.

In addition to the study, ABC completed the South Cadillac Culvert Repair Project, fixing a culvert damaged during heavy storms in August 1998 and in May 1999, Kenner said. The cost was $68,591.

“The township was concerned about the integrity of the structure and asked ABC to make the necessary repairs,” Kenner said.

The SBA disaster center in Mahoning County is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before closing up at the end of business Wednesday, according to an SBA news release.

The center in the Boardman Township Administration Building, 8299 Market St., has experienced a “steady decline” of activity and that is why it is closing, the release states.

O’Hara said coming back from the flooding has been slow going.

“We are slowly reopening, A grocery store just reopened in Boardman. It has been slow going. Some residents are recovering quicker than others, but it takes time to recover after an incident like this,” O’Hara said.

People applying for assistance would have preferred more of the help FEMA offered in the form of grants, O’Hara said, because that doesn’t have to be paid back. And the terms of the loans were dependent on factors such as the applicant’s credit score, O’Hara said. But the terms are generally decent and allow the money to be paid back over a lengthy period, O’Hara said.

The filing deadline to submit applications for physical property damage was Sept. 3. The deadline for economic injury applications is March 18, 2020.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

To be considered, applicants should register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or download the FEMA mobile app.

Applications and program information are available by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or by emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be returned to a center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

rfox@tribtoday.com