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Requests to state for individual assistance after Alaska’s 7.0 quake grows to 2,600 and counting

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: December 9, 2018
  • Published December 8, 2018

Eagle River homeowner Duncan Whitney, left, and structural engineer Jake Horazdovsky walk around Whitney's home during an inspection Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Whitney removed cracked drywall from his home's most-damaged room, looking for hidden structural damage. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Did your house suffer minor wall cracking from the big Nov. 30 earthquake? Maybe a bookshelf collapsed or heirlooms shattered on the floor?

As state and federal damage-assessment teams prepare to fan out across the quake-struck region, an Alaska emergency management official said even minor household damage may be eligible for state recovery assistance, and possibly federal assistance if that’s made available.

Undiscovered but serious damage from the magnitude 7.0 quake could reveal itself later in some homes, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, on Saturday.

Having a full accounting of impacts could help support those requests for assistance that can be updated after the application deadline on Jan. 29

“If you discover damage later on, maybe to the foundation after the ground thaws in the spring, those are areas where we can amend an application,” Zidek said.

The state agency, since launching an application portal online on Monday, at ready.alaska.gov, and a hotline center on Tuesday (855-445-7131), has received a “tremendous number” of individual assistance applications, he said.

It’s primarily for damage related to homes in the Anchorage area, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, he said.

As of Friday, 2,600 individual requests had streamed in, and the number is growing, he said. So many reports are arriving the agency is bolstering staff to ensure all applications are processed, he said.

“We have reports of homes with major damage” -- like a collapsed roof -- “all the way down to some damaged personal possessions,” Zidek said.

Preliminary damage assessment teams will hit streets starting Monday to review reports, and create a sample of overall impacts that will be part of requests that could lead to federal assistance for the recovery, Zidek said.

Representatives with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration will join state officials for the week-long review of individual assistance requests, Zidek said.

“We’re really focused on people with housing needs at this time, and getting people into safe adequate housing," he said.

Those applications will be prioritized over those with homes in livable condition, or residents that suffered damage only to personal items.

“We’ll call those folks after we address requests for those with immediate needs," he said.

Review teams will also be speaking to people with businesses that suffered physical or economic damage related to the quake, he said.

The information from businesses could lead to a request for a Small Business Administration declaration, if requirements are met, he said.

The review of public facilities will follow the review of individual assistance needs, he said. That will begin Dec. 17. Teams will assess roads, bridges, schools and other facilities for possible long-term federal support in the recovery, Zidek said.

The Federal Highway Administration has released $5 million in emergency relief funds to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, money considered a payment for short-term repairs, not the longer-term repairs that will be needed.

That is a separate form of assistance involving DOT, not Homeland Security, Zidek said.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Alaska on Nov. 30.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough offer online reporting sites where residents can record damage, Zidek said.

Those are important for gathering information that will be used to supplement the state’s requests for assistance, Zidek said.

But to receive compensation from the state, residents must apply with the state, he said.

“If federal assistance is activated,” there will be a separate application process for that help, Zidek said.

Not all damage reported will be eligible for assistance, and not everyone will be made whole, he said. But if federal assistance arrives, it will greatly supplement what the state offers.

“Disaster recovery is a very difficult and sometimes frustrating process,” he said. “We ask that people are patient. We are doing everything we can, with the programs we have, to assist people.”

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