Flood-devastated communities fail to qualify for FEMA assistance

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The cleanup process is far from over for flood-torn communities in North Central Indiana. Nonprofit groups predict it will be another year before things return to normal.

Despite millions of dollars in damage, state officials said it wasn’t enough for FEMA’s help. Communities are now counting on a local response to get people back home and businesses running again.

With sandbags still piled up outside, business is back running at Stites Cleaners in Kokomo.

“Sort of, kind of,” said owner Robert Rozzi. “This is our busiest time of the year. We’ve kind of got enough going where we can just work and get the clothes out and just do the other stuff later.”

Rozzi can still point out the watermarks stained on the door. It’s been three weeks since 29 inches of water flooded his family business.

The record flooding has left hundreds without a home and businesses temporarily shut down. The United Way of Howard County said more than 500 residents have been displaced. United Way of Howard County President Abby Smith said finding affordable housing was an issue before. Now, it’s a crisis.

“We can meet food needs. We can meet furniture needs but the big ticket items like the water heater or security deposit or first month’s rent — those are the things we need the money for.”

Chrysler announced Thursday it would be donating $50,000 to flood relief in North Central Indiana. Duke Energy also wrote a $10,000 check to United Way of Howard County.

The community of Tipton also gathered Thursday for a charity concert to raise money for flood aid.

“We’re getting by but it’s taken time,” said Rozzi. “We’re getting there.”

Governor Mike Pence has requested the U.S. Small Business Administration’s loan program for Grant, Howard, Tipton and contiguous counties.

If that request is granted, the contiguous counties of Blackford, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Delaware, Hamilton, Huntington, Madison, Miami, Wabash and Wells would be eligible for low-interest loans. Residents, businesses and nonprofits could apply.

Indiana is also one of few states to have a state disaster relief fund.