State requests more time for Isabel victims

February 16, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The state is asking federal officials to allow families displaced by Tropical Storm Isabel to remain in government-supplied trailers until they can resolve the issues - including disputes over insurance payments - that have kept them from rebuilding their homes or finding other permanent housing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides the trailers for up to 18 months after a disaster declaration, and officials with FEMA's state counterpart said they knew that anniversary would hit in mid-March. The disaster declaration for Maryland was issued Sept. 19, 2003.

"We knew the calendar - that's obviously something we were concerned about - and wanted to make sure nobody fell through the cracks," said Edward J. McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. The agency began working on the request in December, according to MEMA's announcement of the extension request.

State officials have been assured that FEMA does not summarily evict residents "who are actively looking for permanent housing," according to MEMA's announcement. Also, FEMA spokeswoman Niki Edwards said this month that the agency doesn't "kick people out on the street."

Yesterday, Edwards said the federal agency had received the state's request and is reviewing it.

About 120 Maryland families are living in the trailers, McDonough said.

Isabel victims have long complained that the insurance payouts they received were much less than they say their flood insurance policies called for. Other issues delaying families' moves into permanent housing were weather-related or stemmed from problems finding qualified contractors, McDonough said.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. sent a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. a few weeks ago asking him to request an extension from FEMA.

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