Obama declares federal disaster in mudslide area; locals told to register with FEMA

OLYMPIA -- President Obama on Wednesday approved Gov. Jay Inslee's request for a major disaster declaration in Snohomish County to financially assist survivors, households and businesses affected by the March 22 Oso mudslide.

As a result, the following programs will be made available in Snohomish County and to the Stillaguamish, Sauk-Suiattle and Tulalip tribes:

• Disaster Housing, which provides funds for up 18 months to displaced persons whose residences were heavily damaged or destroyed to find temporary housing in the local area. Funding also can be provided for housing repairs and replacement of damaged items to make homes habitable.

• Disaster Grants, which help individuals meet other serious disaster-related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance and other aid programs. These may include replacement of personal property, and transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses.

• Disaster-related unemployment insurance to provide unemployment insurance benefit payments to individuals who became unemployed as a result of the disaster and do not qualify for regular benefits.

• Crisis counseling program, which provides grants to provide services to disaster survivors, responders, and others impacted by the disaster.

In addition, the governor requested the Small Business Administration to make its disaster loan program available. The program makes low-interest loans available after a disaster for homeowners and renters to cover uninsured property losses.

John Pennington, of Snohomish County's Emergency Management agency, stressed at a Wednesday news briefing later that any individual or business affected in any way by the March 22 mudslide or the aftermath should register for financial assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA.

"If you don't register with FEMA for federal assistance, you don't receive federal assistance," Pennington said emphatically.

Officials said people can register with FEMA by either calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or by going to its website at www.disasterassistance.gov

Last week, Obama approved a federal emergency declaration for the mudslide area, which provided direct federal assistance in the form of a federal disaster team and specialized personnel including FEMA. The emergency declaration also allowed federal reimbursement for a portion of the costs to provide emergency protective measures and response following the Oso slide.