PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the first disaster assistance payments to individuals in Rhode Island whose homes were damaged by last month's Superstorm Sandy.
FEMA has approved $130,800 in individual disaster assistance for homeowners. Agency spokeswoman Deanna Frazier said 220 Rhode Islanders have registered for help from FEMA. She said she expected the number to grow now that President Barack Obama has signed disaster declaration requests from the state.
Sandy brought punishing winds and strong tidal surges when it hit Rhode Island in late October. Homes in several communities along the state's south shore were damaged or destroyed by floods, falling trees or wind damage.
FEMA has opened disaster recovery centers in South Kingstown, Westerly and Middletown to assist residents affected by the storm. Individuals in Newport and Washington counties are eligible to apply for federal disaster assistance.
"We want to ensure everyone who was impacted or displaced by Sandy gets the assistance they qualify for," U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said when announcing the opening of the recovery centers.
FEMA offers help home repair grants, temporary housing payments and unemployment payments to those affected by the storm. The Small Business Administration also offers loans to help businesses and homeowners.
The maximum grant to individuals looking to repair their primary homes is $30,000.
Second homes like beach cottages aren't eligible for home repair grants. Frazier said another common misconception is that the federal government will agree to pay for the complete repair of a damaged home.
"You might say that's not going to go very far, but the FEMA funds ... aren't meant to get you back to your pre-disaster position," Frazier explained.
FEMA encourages residents interested in applying for help to register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov before going to one of the centers. Individuals can also call FEMA at 800-621-3362.
Once registered, individuals will be contacted by a FEMA inspector and should hear within 10 days whether they're eligible for assistance.
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