Not giving up on FEMA funds for flood vics

05/08/2010 12:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Shirley Coverdale, a director of the Long Island Organizing
Network, is hoping to spread the word to anyone affected by
last month’s monster rain storm to report their damages to the
town and county.

Rhonda King, whose Osborn Avenue home was destroyed by flooding earlier this year, lost nearly all her possessions, including her daughter’s car, when she and her neighbors suddenly found themselves surrounded by several feet of water.
Like flood victims throughout Riverhead Town and Suffolk County, Ms. King, whose landlord has since relocated her and her family elsewhere in Riverhead, has not received any insurance or federal disaster money. She instead has relied on private donations from her church, friends and family to rebuild her life.
“I’m doing everything on my own,” she said.
That’s why Ms. King and nearly 200 members of the Long Island Organizing Network, local lawmakers and fellow flood victims gathered at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead Saturday morning. Their goal? To make another push for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to help homeowners and municipalities pay for the devastating effects of the late March storm that dumped over 8 inches of rain in parts of Suffolk County.
During the meeting, elected leaders from the town, county, state and federal governments signed a letter urging Governor David Paterson to seek federal funds to help both public and private properties recover from damages, as well as to finance a long-term solution for the flood prone area.
“Ghandi said, ‘ Be the change you want to see in the world,’ and that’s what we’re about,” said Shirley Coverdale, who sits on the Long Island Organizing Network’s board of directors and whose husband, the Rev. Charles Coverdale, is the church’s pastor.
Governor Paterson last month balked at asking President Obama to declare the region a disaster area, which would have made hardship grants and rental assistance available, because damage estimates didn’t meet FEMA-required thresholds. Instead, he asked the Small Business Administration to make low-interest loans available to flood victims, which the agency agreed to do.
But many local renters and homeowners live on fixed incomes and have said they would not qualify for the loans.
Saturday’s event was also designed to get residents from throughout the county to come forward with the costs of any flood damages suffered to help the state and county better assess overall damages. Local officials feel damages have been understated.
vchinese@timesreview.com

Read more in the May 13 edition of the News-Review.