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Home and business owners in Oak Park and River Forest who lost property or whose buildings were damaged in recent flooding – now that Cook County officially has been declared a disaster area – may start applying for assistance as of Aug. 20, by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Greg Fugate announced Aug. 19 “that federal disaster aid has been made available for the State of Illinois to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms and flooding during the period of July 22 to August 7, 2010.”

Types of assistance FEMA is offering include the following: rental payments for temporary housing due to homes being unlivable after the flooding; grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance; grants to replace personal property not covered by insurance; unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster; low-interest loans to cover residential losses not covered by insurance; and loans up to $2 million for small businesses damaged by the flooding.

The River Forest village Web site (www.river-forest.us) links to FEMA information on its home page news section.

In Oak Park, the “news” section of the village Web site (www.oak-park.us) notes that flood-damage victims may also qualify for low-interest loans from the state. To learn more, residents can call Opportunity Illinois at 866-523-0641, or e-mail opportunityillinois@treasurer.state.il.us

According to Dave Powers, communications director for the village of Oak Park, the village received about 400 disaster data collection forms in the wake of July’s flooding. Powers said Oak Park will use its Web site to tell victims how to reach FEMA to apply for funds.

The village will also use Facebook – its page has 2,000 followers – Twitter, VOP TV and e-mail blasts to help spread the word.

However, Powers cautioned, “One thing we’ve learned through the process of dealing with this flooding is that a lot of what we’ve lost in Oak Park will not be covered by FEMA – that’s geared more to structural damage.”

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