76 N.H. Families Still in Need After May Floods

September 5, 2006

A Rockingham County, N.H. relief agency estimates it will cost $3.8 million to help 76 families who haven’t been able to return to their homes since May’s flooding, but it could take months before the state can provide help.

George Thirsk, executive director of Rockingham Community Action, says the average repair estimate for each family is around $50,000.

The agency is one of a few in the state chosen to process aid applications for flood victims who aren’t eligible to receive help from the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Small Business Administration.

Thirsk said so far the money to pay for repairs has come from a WMUR-TV telethon, plus a $5,000 state grant for operating expenses. But that money, about $200,000, has run out.

“As of last week, I spent everything we were allocated,” he said.

Thirsk said it may cost an additional $2 million to help people who applied for help to repair less extensive flood damage.

The only way to obtain money from the state would be through Legislature, and the next session does not begin until January.

“Essentially, there is nothing right now,” said Jim Van Dongen, a state emergency management spokesman.

Money the Legislature approved for last October’s floods in Alstead didn’t come through until last spring, notes Pamela Walsh, the governor’s spokeswoman.

She said Gov. John Lynch has asked New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to see whether any federal appropriations are possible.

The deadline to apply for FEMA and SBA loans has passed. In the meantime, Thirsk said the agency must rely on private donations, which have been slow in coming.

“Maybe it’s donor burnout,” he said. “There’s been a lot of disasters and people are tapped out.”

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