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Flood victims get conflicting answers

Lorna McDaniel

A couple whose home and business were devastated in the New Year’s flood are getting conflicting answers to their questions regarding disaster relief.

Sonja deBottari, owner of the Mountain Gate Lodge, said that the people who hold the mortgage on the lodge, that was swept away by a mud slide in the Walker Canyon, called the Federal Emergency Management Administration with questions, talked to 10 different people and got 10 different answers.

The deBottaris said in an interview for a prior story that appeared in The Record-Courier, that any assistance they received from other agencies including FEMA and the American Red Cross, would be deducted from their Small Business Administration loan, if they qualified.



Any amount of assistance given as disaster relief does not have to be paid back, according to Leslie Schaffer, executive director of the Red Cross Sierra Nevada chapter.

She said Tuesday the Red Cross should be called if anyone is asking for repayment of Red Cross assistance.



“Sometimes scam artists hit the people affected by disasters,” she said.

FEMA contacted The Record-Courier saying that money given to people for temporary housing was considered a grant and would not have to be paid back.

Brett Hansard, public affairs officer for the FEMA field office in Sacramento, said temporary housing grants can be extended if permanent housing was not secured after three months.

He added that FEMA acts as a type of case worker to people affected by a disaster to “make sure their needs are met.”

He said FEMA would also give a minimal home repair grant for damages of less than $10,000.

“It makes sense to help make repairs rather than have them live somewhere else,” he said.

For damages of more than $10,000, people would be directed to other sources for help like the SBA.

Herb Johnston, public information officer for SBA, said that FEMA minimal repair grants would be considered a duplication of funds, and would be deducted from the amount of the loan.

For example, if a person qualifies for a $25,000 loan, and they received a minimal repair grant for $1,000, then the amount of the loan would be $24,000.

Sonja and Lou deBottari, trying to recover from the loss of their home and business valued at $1.3 million, qualify for a $200,000 house loan and $40,000 personal property replacement loan.

Sonja said the couple didn’t need $40,000 in personal property and wanted the amounts combined for a house.

The SBA agreed on a $240,000 house loan and the deBottaris went house hunting.

After the deBottaris found a house, the SBA told them they would not be able to combine the loans but they would still give them the house and personal property loan.

“Every time I turn around they are telling me something different,” Sonja said. “We don’t need to spend $40,000 on couches and refrigerators. We have a lot of resources. We have friends and family and we can get things second hand, but we do need a home.”

The Western Nevada Musical Theater Co. raised about $2,500 for the deBottaris in a benefit Sunday.