BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH, Ky. - The myriad disaster assistance programs available can easily swirl around flood victims without being understood.
That's why federal and state officials want anyone in Northern Kentucky with even the smallest amount of damage from the Flood of 1997 to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
From there, individual needs can be determined and met.
At Pendleton County High School, residents can take advantage of a one-stop center.
FEMA offers two types of grants. The individual program provides up to $10,000 to cover the loss of home and to help victims get back on their feet.
The family grant provides $13,000 to help replace personal items lost in a disaster.
FEMA also will pay rent for three to 18 months for persons displaced by the flood.
FEMA does not offer assistance to private businesses.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans for homeowners, renters and business owners. ''We are the primary form of disaster assistance,'' spokesman Don Waite said.
To be considered for an SBA loan, residents must register with FEMA. All of the loans are low-interest and long-term.
Homeowners can qualify for up to $200,000 for physical structure and $40,000 for personal property. The interest rate is 3.875 percent.
Renters can apply for up to $40,000 in a personal property loan at the same interest rate.
Business owners can qualify for up to $1.5 million in loans. Two programs provide money at 4 percent interest to cover the physical structure and to provide working capital to pay bills and cover repairs.
The total loan package cannot exceed $1.5 million.
Business owners and their employees can also apply for up to 26 weeks of unemployment assistance.
FEMA and the SBA will not duplicate money awarded from insurance companies. But officials said people should not wait for insurance companies to make their reports before registering with FEMA.
''We can always go back and make changes,'' FEMA spokesman Charles Scheer said.
Not registering could disqualify individuals from receiving aid from federal programs.
The American Red Cross works to keep people fed, clothed and together with their families. If victims are staying with relatives, the Red Cross will provide food, center manager Charlotte Simpson said.
After a site visit to a client's home, the Red Cross can provide rental assistance if FEMA checks have not yet been issued. Money is also available for minor home repairs.
The Red Cross also meets medical needs, making sure eyeglasses, medications, walkers, hearing aids and other items are provided.
Once a family or individual has found a place to stay, the Red Cross can help furnish the new home with beds, cooking and eating utensils, linens and towels and other furnishings.
By asking clients to tell their stories, the Red Cross also offers some therapy, Ms. Simpson said. ''The idea is to get the family unit back together. It will never be the same, but at least they can be together.''