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Disaster recovery money is flowing in Spokane, but demand for help is decreasing

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency say they’ve handed out more than $2 million in disaster relief money to wildfire victims in Spokane County during the last month.

Duke Davis, who leads the FEMA response team in Spokane, says when his agency arrived in Spokane in late February, it took some time to assess damage claims. But now many of those have been paid. Davis says 30 homeowners have received the maximum grant FEMA gives, $42,500.

“We’re not really looking at what takes to restore an entire five-bedroom house, but we’re looking at those basic needs to get someone back in a safe type of environment,” he said.

FEMA is also paying for damages not directly related to damaged structures.

“We can help with medical, dental or optometry bills or losses due to the fire. We’ve had folks, they needed a new wheelchair, new stabilizing devices. We’ve seen some new dental equipment that was melted and destroyed,” Davis said.

He says FEMA will continue to consider damage claims for the next 18 months, but you’ll need to get your information into the federal system first.

“If you come in 13 months from now and you say, ‘You know, I didn’t really realize my septic system, it was sitting there idle while I was rebuilding my house. Well, now I’m ready to hook back up to septic and I just discovered that my hookups are melted or they’re defective due to the fire,’” he said. “You can come back in 13 months and, if you’ve got a registration number, we can help you out and we can look into your file and we can help you get to yes and get you some assistance, hopefully.”

Davis says you can register in the federal system online or by visiting one of the agency’s two outreach centers, one in Medical Lake, the other in Elk.

“We’ll keep those open, likely all the way until the 20th of April. But we’ve seen a shift in the purpose of visits. We’ve been consistently having about 20-24 visits between the two from the very beginning. Initially we had more first-time visits and registrations, but what we’re seeing now is second and third-time visits, coming back to ask questions and really bring in documentation to help with their case file,” Davis said.

He says April 20 date marks the end of a 60-day signup period in which people who want to pursue claims must get their names and personal information into the FEMA database. He says, once they do that, they can continue to work with FEMA and the Small Business Administration to secure grants and low-interest loans.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.