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Help may be on the way for uninsured flood victims

The best option is to have flood insurance.

But now that Tropical Storm Debby has come and gone, what can people with flooded homes and no flood insurance do to get help?

The options are limited.

"If you don't have any insurance and your home gets damaged, unfortunately you're usually stuck footing the bill," said Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Michael Burzumato.

The first step is to get your home inspected by the county's assessment teams, then hope for federal assistance down the road, said Hernando County emergency manager Cecilia Patella.

"They need to be sure that they've gotten an inspection so we can try to get federal assistance," Patella said.

Communities may be eligible to receive assistance from federal grant and low-interest loan programs.

The county will compile a list of all the damage, and if it is extensive enough, the president can declare the region a disaster area, possibly opening up the federal resources for residents who don't have insurance or who have damage that isn't covered by their insurance.

"That's when those funding mechanisms become available," Patella said.

It's not clear if Hernando will qualify for the disaster designation. And even if the aid does come, residents would first have to qualify for it.

It's not a quick process.

Each affected county must compile damage estimates and send them to the state, which will then make the request to the federal government, Patella said.

"It's really going to be driven by how quickly the counties report up to the state," she said. "Some counties will be quickly. Some will take longer."

One factor that tends to slow damage assessments: standing water.

"Our goal is to get it done as soon as possible," Patella said.

A disaster declaration could also mean federal assistance for public facilities, including public buildings, roads and infrastructure. If there's enough damage to enough businesses, the area could also be eligible for loans from the Small Business Administration.

Hernando County officials are urging businesses and homeowners to report damages.

So far, few businesses have reported damage.

As of Wednesday afternoon, damage assessment teams had completed 25 assessments. Only nine of the homes had water intrusion.

That number is expected to grow.

"While the low volume of damage reports may be a good sign, we are concerned that many businesses have suffered a loss and do not realize that it needs to be reported," according to statement from the Sheriff's Office. "This information is vital as damage assessment teams are currently on the ground in Hernando County evaluating the aftermath from Tropical Storm Debby."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

. Fast facts

How to report damage

Residents and business owners can report damage from Tropical Storm Debby to the Hernando County Emergency Operations Center at (352) 754-4083.

Help may be on the way for uninsured flood victims 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:00pm]
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