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Deadline draws near for storm-damage aid

Residents who suffered property damage during the storms, tornadoes and floods that ripped through West Central Florida this winter have until Monday to file for federal disaster relief.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still accepting applications for grants and low-interest loans to those residents in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Citrus counties. The El Nino-spawned storms caused serious flooding and tornadoes this past winter. The first wave of storms hit Tampa Bay on Christmas Day.

Lynne Keating, spokesperson for FEMA, says any homeowner who was forced to relocate may apply for a federal grant to shoulder the cost of temporary housing. Renters, homeowners and business owners who suffered property damage between Dec. 25, 1997, and the May 6 deadline may seek low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Applications are accepted by calling toll-free: (800) 462-9029 or (800) 462-7585.

"You need to have available a Social Security number, permanent resident address, proof of residency and if you've been displaced, they need to have a phone number," says Keating. "Whether you have insurance or not, you should make an application."

So far Pasco County residents have been approved for $2.5-million in disaster relief.

FEMA granted $1.9-million worth of assistance to people in Hillsborough County. Hernando County residents have been approved for about $1.5-million.

In Citrus County, residents have been approved for $801,345 in federal money, and fewer than 100 people in Pinellas County have been approved for a total of $229,718.

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