Deadline nearing for storm aid

Nonprofits must file applications by Oct. 18

October 04, 2003|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

Nonprofit organizations that suffered damage as a result of Tropical Storm Isabel could wind up with a second calamity, a local congressman warned yesterday. The groups have just two more weeks to apply for emergency grants.

At a news conference, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin said many private nonprofit groups damaged by flooding and sewage backups during the storm had yet to apply for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We were surprised to learn that a lot of the nonprofits were not aware of the special category of assistance for them," Cardin said. "If you qualify, you can get a grant for 75 percent of the qualified loss."

Unlike for-profit enterprises and homeowners covered by low-interest FEMA loans, some not-for-profit groups hard hit by Isabel are eligible for federal grants processed through the state emergency agency, MEMA. Those grants expire 30 days after the declared emergency. In this case, that's Oct. 18.

Cardin urged nonprofit museums, zoos, libraries, senior citizens facilities, volunteer fire departments, hospitals and private and parochial schools to apply at www.fema.gov/rrr/pa/.

Sewage backups at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, flooding in a downtown nursing home and waterlogged vehicles at volunteer fire departments in Baltimore County are among types of damage that might qualify for the grants, he said.

"They qualify," he said. The nursing home "would qualify because it is a nonprofit. ... The volunteer fire departments that suffered damage to their trucks could get compensated for it."

In some cases, such as that of the museum, chances of getting a grant are unclear. Several feet of standing sewage ruined nearly half of its collections, 22 computers in a new lab and a workshop area filled with up-to-date text books, said Executive Director Paul Cypher. "We lost between 8,000 and 10,000 objects that were insured for more than $1 million," Cypher said.

After Isabel, Cypher telephoned FEMA's 800 number for damaged property and was instructed to apply for a Small Business Administration loan. He reapplied to FEMA for its Public Assistance Program for private nonprofit organizations.

He was told that while the museum had an education function, it's not considered an essential service provider and not qualified for emergency aid.

Cardin, who held the news conference at the museum, acknowledged some confusion over sources for relief. But he urged nonprofit groups to apply for FEMA money. "If there's any doubt at all, apply," he said.

Meanwhile, Maryland Homeland Security Director Dennis Schrader told a congressional committee yesterday that state and local government costs for Isabel recovery efforts total about $80 million, and about 75 percent of the costs will be eligible for federal reimbursement.

Also yesterday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., announced the creation of a toll-free hot line to coordinate donations and offers of volunteer time to help Marylanders affected by Isabel.

The hot line number is 877-868-4954. Callers who want to make a donation can request a list of the most-needed items.

The Capital News Service contributed to this article.

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