Clayton probably won't
qualify for FEMA assistance

By Joel Hall


While two weeks have passed since the Mother's Day storm that swept through the Ellenwood area, causing an estimated $7.38 million in damages, Clayton will not likely be added to the list of Georgia counties receiving aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to county officials.

James Maloy, assistant chief of logistics for the Clayton County Fire Department and deputy directory of Clayton County Emergency Management, said the county simply does not qualify, since the majority of the damage is being covered by insurance.

"The areas that we had impacted by the tornado event were mostly new structures that were built within the last 10 years or so," said Maloy. "Even though we had $7.38 million worth of damage, it was insured damage. Basically, you have to qualify for that and the aid is based on uninsured damage."

According to FEMA guidelines, for a county to receive disaster aid, it must incur an amount of uninsured damage equaling at least $3.11 per capita, based on the county's population. According to the 2000 census, Clayton County had a population of 272,000, thus the county would need at least $846,000 of uninsured damages to qualify.

Maloy said many people have a misconception of what federal aid is, and that even with a loan, those without insurance would still have to come out of pocket eventually. "If you get aid from the government, it's not free money," said Maloy. "It's basically a low interest loan that would have to be repaid."

Maloy said insurance is keeping Clayton County residents from having to "come out of pocket," and that the county is doing a good job of taking care of it's own. He said that as of last week, the Clayton County American Red Cross found temporary housing for all 24 of the families displaced by the tornado.

"I don't think that this will financially ruin anybody," said Maloy.

District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton said many of the area's churches came to the aid of tornado victims, and county agencies helped some residents with subsidized rent -- on a case-by-case basis.

"Most definitely, we don't want to leave citizens out in the cold," said Singleton. "We want to help them. We have some situations, and I am working hard to help those people in whatever situations they are [in.]

"Whatever is available, I am going to make sure that our citizens are well-taken care of, but right now, we don't qualify," said Singleton.