The Town of Merrillville is collaborating with state and local officials in pursuit of a disaster declaration in connection with the tornado and severe storms that caused destruction in the community last week. Such a declaration could make the community eligible for support, which includes public assistance, individual assistance, and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
Public assistance could help reimburse governmental entities and certain nonprofit organizations for their response efforts following a severe weather event. Individual assistance would provide FEMA funding to individuals to address property damage caused during severe weather. U.S. SBA loans are low-interest loans that could be used by property owners to address damage not fully covered by insurance.
Indiana also has a State Disaster Relief Fund, which could assist individuals and governmental entities not eligible for federal disaster loans. Several steps must be followed in the disaster declaration process. That includes local government and emergency officials gathering damage information and conveying it to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
If warranted, the Governor could declare a state of emergency that would open the community up to resources from state agencies.
A request for FEMA to conduct a preliminary damage assessment could be made if the recovery appears to be beyond the combined state and local resources. If that happens, FEMA personnel as well as state and local officials would complete damage assessments. If necessary, the Governor could submit a written request to the President asking for federal aid. Information from that request would be used to determine if a major disaster or emergency exists.
Merrillville continues working with the State through this process, and the Town will provide more information as it becomes available. It is important to always add that there were NO serious injuries from the storm. NIPSCO continues its restoration work and the town will be working hard in the coming days/weeks in the cleanup effort. The town has also provided dumpsters to the affected neighborhoods to assist homeowners with their cleanup efforts. -Rick Bella, Town Council President, Ward 5 Representative