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FEMA assistance to Oregonians surpasses $160 million

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Debris from the Almeda Fire remains off of Hwy 99 in Phoenix.
More than two thirds has gone to Southern Oregon

Federal aid to help individuals in the 10 months since the Labor Day fires has surpassed $160 million — with most of that aid helping Southern Oregonians still reeling from the Almeda and South Obenchain fires.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided a combined $160.6 million to Oregonians as of the first week of July, according to numbers provided by FEMA media relations specialist Paul Corah.

The numbers break down as follows: $45.4 million for direct federal assistance, $61 million for low-interest disaster loans, $13.6 million to build group housing sites and about $40.6 to temporarily house fire survivors.

Corah estimated Tuesday that 70% has helped Southern Oregonians.

In Jackson County, FEMA has approved 1,783 individuals for grants through the agency’s Individuals and Households program. The grants are valued at more than $27 million.

Another 259 Southern Oregon renters and homeowners, along with 18 businesses, had received $30 million in low-interest disaster loans issued through the U.S. Small Business Administration as of July 9.

The Rogue Valley number is nearly half of the $61 million in disaster loans the SBA issued statewide.

FEMA has provided $45.4 million worth of direct federal assistance to Oregon residents, including $29.9 million in housing aid, $3.8 million in crisis counseling among other regular federal services. Another $4.5 million has been granted “to help [fire survivors] meet critical needs,” such as unemployment assistance and legal services and $7.2 million for “other needs assistance"— which according to Corah can include miscellaneous expenses caused by the disaster for qualified individuals which can include, funeral, moving and storage, transportation or child care.

In Jackson County, the agency issued 1,314 grants in Jackson County for housing repairs or replacement valued at $22.5 million.

FEMA gave another 1,493 grants locally worth $4.8 million covering “personal property, transportation and other disaster related serious needs,” and conducted 2,590 home inspections at no charge to the homeowner.

The government has spent more than $13.6 million for the U.S. Army Corps of engineers to build group temporary housing sites in Jackson, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties.

FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to restore and reopen mobile home parks in Jackson County as part of a first-of-its-kind program to boost available temporary housing. The first site under the program, Totem Pole Trailer Park in Talent, hosts 27 households, according to FEMA and a June 16 Mail Tribune report.

Two other emergency housing sites are under construction, with completion planned later this summer.

Rogue Valley Mobile Village in Medford will accommodate 20 spaces for emergency housing when it opens later this month. Coleman Creek Estates mobile home park in Phoenix will have 69 spaces for emergency housing when it opens in August.

On the sites, RVs, mobile homes and travel trailers can be installed until survivors find permanent housing. FEMA has spent $40.6 million to install and maintain RVs, mobile home units and travel trailers for displaced survivors.

FEMA awards its grants “based on the survivor family composition and needs,” according to a release. The program can last until March of next year, according to FEMA, and depends on “each survivor’s efforts to find a permanent housing solution and following the rules established by the park and FEMA.”

Almeda and South Obenchain fire survivors who've applied with FEMA and have questions about the disaster assistance or appeals process can contact the federal angency by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov, or calling its helpline from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at 1-800-621-3362.

There are 1,041 Oregonians sheltered through the Oregon Department of Human Services and 382 Oregonians in direct housing through FEMA, and 25,251 in Oregon registered for assistance through FEMA’s Direct Temporary Housing Program, according to a release issued last week through the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

According to Oregon Department of Transportation numbers, 2,146 of home sites — 71.8% — have been cleared across the state from the Labor Day fires and 48,717 hazardous trees have been removed.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.