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Opinion: Triple-Teaming Leominster’s Flood Recovery

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has answered Leominster's call for help after flood waters ravaged parts of the city, Mayor Dean Mazzarella said on a Facebook livestream on Monday.

(TNS) - Assistance from public and private sources at the local, state and federal level continues to lift Leominster's spirits, especially those residents directly impacted by the flood damage caused by Sept. 11's deluge.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has answered Leominster's call for help after flood waters ravaged parts of the city, Mayor Dean Mazzarella said on a Facebook livestream on Monday.

Leominster was declared a federal disaster area by President Joe Biden, Mazzarella said.

Monday marked one week since that storm of biblical proportions dumped 11 inches of rain on the city within a few hours, causing massive flooding and widespread damage to city, business, and residential properties, roadways, and the commuter rail line.

"Now we kick into that process," he said. "We're getting familiar with that process, but right now the best thing that we could do is if you've sustained any kind of damage, is to fill out one of these forms that I'll show you."

Provided through the city website and the city's Facebook page, the mayor advised that filling out FEMA forms doesn't guarantee funding, but it does provide a way to reach everyone that has sustained flood damage.

Gov. Maura Healey had declared a state of emergency on Sept. 12, hours after she announced that she would ask for federal support.

Mazzarella had previously stated that it would cost from $25 million to $45 million to repair infrastructure damage caused by the extensive flooding, but that didn't include the loss of personal property.

The FEMA disaster declaration allows residents and the municipality to seek federal aid to help rehab or replace items impacted by the estimated 11 inches of rain.

According to its website, FEMA provides two main types of assistance, individual and public, in the wake of major disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding.

FEMA provides individual assistance to eligible individuals and households that have sustained losses that prompted a federal disaster declaration.

Homeowners and renters in officially designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles, personal property, businesses or inventory may apply for disaster assistance.

Assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, together with other serious disaster-related expenses.

Disaster assistance grants aren't taxable income, nor will they affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, medical waiver programs, welfare assistance, temporary assistance for needy families, food stamps, supplemental security Income, Social Security disability insurance or any other federal benefits.

As a FEMA partner, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, nonprofits, homeowners and renters, independent of benefits obtained from other agencies or organizations.

Public assistance can fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of eligible public or certain nonprofit facilities or infrastructure damaged or destroyed by a disaster.

FEMA will provide a reimbursement grant of at least 75% of eligible costs, with the state and local governments sharing the remaining 25%.

However, residents must fill out those FEMA forms to be eligible for this generous federal assistance.

"A lot of people lost everything. Not only did people lose things that are important to them, they lost space," Mazzarella said in reference to flooded finished basements.

The mayor also mentioned that "some people may qualify for a Community Development Block Grant," and that the city will be setting up an event to provide information on relief resources available.

And some of that assistance also emanates from a regional agency well known for its compassion and generosity.

Through its economic-development arm, the North Central Mass. Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that it will provide emergency loans to mitigate flood damage incurred by businesses in Leominster and other local communities.

The North Central Mass. Development Corp.'s North Central Emergency Relief Loan program will provide up to $10,000 with a 1% interest rate and all fees waived for eligible businesses, and offers an expedited approval process with a quick closing.

Loans are available for up to six months of interest-only or deferred payments, then up to a 36-month repayment term with no pre-payment penalty.

Businesses meeting the loan program criteria can expect to receive funding within two weeks of a completed application.

To be eligible for the North Central Emergency Relief Loan program, businesses must have been in operation at the time of the disaster, with funding utilized for losses caused by the flooding in North Central Massachusetts and for flood remediation expenses.

"Should businesses incur expenses above and beyond this loan, we can work with them using our traditional loan programs and full underwriting practices," said Roy Nascimento, president and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber and North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation.

As Mayor Mazzarella previously stated, there are no quick fixes for a disaster of this scale, but with local, state and federal support, the recovery timeline can be accelerated.


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