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Moran Brings Federal Aid to Belle View

Residents hear grim deadline news, but financial help is on the way.

All 65 buildings within the Belle View condominium complex had some portion of water damage from Hurricane Isabel. The depths within the units ranged from 6 inches to 6 feet.

That was the word to more than 400 residents from Kip Smith, president, Belle View Condominium Unit Owners Association, Monday night at a disaster aid meeting called by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8th). Its purpose was to put the flood victims directly in touch with federal aid agency representatives.

Held at Belle View Elementary School, it was also a time for Smith to disseminate both good and bad news pertaining to what the residents will be facing in the weeks ahead.

Two negative pieces of information concerned the continuing lack of hot water and the time limit for discarding ruined personal items.

"It's not a good picture on the hot water situation," Smith warned. "All the boilers in the basements have been destroyed. I don't know how long it will take to replace them. But, I can tell you it won't be done in a week."

As for cleaning out basement storage areas and getting rid of any porous materials that have suffered water damage, residents were given a 24-hour window. "Dehumidification must start tomorrow. We have to have the storage areas themselves torn out," Smith explained.

RESIDENTS ASKED WHY it had to be done so fast. As one resident put it, "Was anyone considering that many of us work all day? How are we supposed to get it done in that time frame?" Smith said he was following the instructions of contractors who would be undertaking the drying process.

Others questioned why they had not been allowed back in sooner to start cleaning out the storage areas. Smith explained, "One of the reasons we asked people not to go into the building basements was because of the possibility of electrocution from live wires in the water. A 60-volt line in an inch of water can kill you."

Moran began the meeting telling the crowd, "All of you have excellent representation in both the community and the association." Moran introduced Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerald Hyland; state Del. Marian Van Landingham (D-45th); Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department battalion commander John Coussin; and Capt. Larry Moser, commander, Mount Vernon Station, Fairfax County Police.

"Gov. Warner has declared this a disaster area, which makes you eligible for both SBA [Small Business Administration] and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] disaster relief funds. There are both SBA and FEMA people present to meet with the residents personally. They will be going door-to-door to help you, beginning tomorrow," Moran said.

MORAN ALSO ANNOUNCED the establishment of the Belle View Condo Relief Funds, for which his district office will serve as a conduit. Donations are to be made out in the name of the fund and sent to his district office located at 5115 B Franconia Road, Alexandria, VA 22310.

Additional information on the fund and relief actions are available on Moran's congressional Web site, moran.house.gov, or by calling 703-971-4700, according to Daniel F. Drummond, Moran's communications director.

"We are here to help you in any way we can," Moran said. "Please call my district office with any questions you might have."

In addition to the boilers’ being destroyed, Smith informed the attendees all the basement areas had been destroyed, including all washers and dryers, and "virtually every electrical service in Belle View received some damage. Every element of the electrical service has to be replaced, including a thousand electric meters."

ON THE GOOD news side, Smith said that "by 6 p.m. [Monday] only seven buildings still had some standing water in the basement, and these should be dry by Tuesday." Unfortunately, the heavy rains Monday night put some water back into the basement level of some of the buildings pronounced dry.

Smith drew applause when he said, "The buildings that still have power will continue to have power." He also established the general guideline that "the people who got hit the worst are going to get fixed first."

With hot water being the prime concern of most, Hyland called the Fairfax County Park Authority during the meeting and had them agree to keep the recreation center at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Belle View Boulevard open for taking showers.

"The county staff has been great in accommodating people," Hyland said. "We have agreed to have a Mount Vernon Community outreach effort to determine people's needs. We still have to work out where the donations will be collected and have volunteers available to distribute the donations. That will all be worked out."

As for the Monday night meeting, Hyland viewed it as "a reality check for people to know how long it's going to take for them to get back into their homes." He also found the presence of the FEMA and SBA representatives "very helpful" in disseminating information and speeding the process.

REPRESENTATIVES of the federal agencies gave out information on how to contact both FEMA and SBA as well as particulars about the aid available. FEMA applicants can apply by phone by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For those with speech and hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-462-7585.

When calling FEMA, applicants were instructed to have the following information available:

*Phone number where FEMA can reach them;

*Social Security number;

*Current mailing address;

*Address of the affected property;

*Brief description of damages; and

*Insurance information including policy number.

The audience was reminded that government disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate for the entire loss. The government may help pay for basic needs not covered by insurance, and disaster aid is both in the form of loans, which are repaid, and grants, which are not.

AS FOR SBA, Isabel relief is under the aegis of SBA's Disaster Area 1 Office located in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Their phone number is 1-800-659-2955. The SBA has established two deadline dates for submission of aid applications. They are as follows:

*Nov. 17, 2003, for physical damage to homes, personal property, and businesses; and

*June 18, 2004, for economic injury.

In addition to their disaster loans for businesses, SBA also provides financial assistance to homeowners and/or renters "to repair or replace disaster damages to real estate or personal property owned by the victim."

Smith specified that the condominium contract provides for living quarters to be restored to livable conditions. However, he noted, "This does not cover personal upgrades such as large-screen televisions and high-end refrigerators and stoves."