09 Jan 2019
- By Sophia Perez – [email protected] – Variety Features Writer
STARTING this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reaching out to Typhoon Yutu survivors whose primary residences have sustained damage of more than 50 percent â€” these households may be eligible for Permanent Housing Construction or PHC.
â€œWe still do not know who will build the homes, or when construction will start,â€� said Victor Inge, external affairs officer for FEMA. â€œIt has to be bid. Weâ€™re doing a lot of the leg work in terms of identifying those who may be eligible.â€�
FEMA is also participating in meetings with the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation and other local stakeholders to address the obstacles to the rebuilding process. But according to Inge, FEMAâ€™s major focus over the past few months has been to tackle debris removal and to â€œget a roof over peopleâ€™s headsâ€� through the Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support or TETRIS program.
As far as the rebuilding process, major details still need to be ironed out; for example, FEMA and the CNMI need to be on the same page as far as the building codes to which they will build.
â€œWeâ€™re authorized to build up to the 2018 International Building Code,â€� said Tracy Aupperlee, individual assistance program specialist for FEMA, â€œbut right now the 2009 IBC is code. So the intent is the 2018 IBC be adopted but that will take several monthsâ€¦we canâ€™t implement a code thatâ€™s stronger than what currently is enforced so those kinds of things are what weâ€™re sorting through.â€�
Aupperlee says FEMA is also considering what types of structures are appropriate for the CNMIâ€™s natural environment.
â€œThose decisions will be made jointly by the Commonwealth and FEMA of course,â€� she said. â€œBut there is no expectation that any of this will be completed even within six months.â€�
â€œWhat we offer in the meantime is dollars and grants. Home repair assistance is already being provided.â€�
And NMHC is seeking ways to make that assistance available to as many people as possible.
â€œWhat weâ€™re trying to address is how we can get more money to assist people who lost their homes through our grantors,â€� explained Jacob Muna, planner and environmental officer for NMHC. â€œRight now all our grants are restricted, so weâ€™re working with our grantors and other federal partners to see what we can do to lessen these restrictions so we can help everybody, make more people eligible.â€�
David Gervino, external affairs officer for FEMAâ€™s Incident Management Assistance Teams, said that for all the challenges that FEMA and the CNMI are facing together, heâ€™s enjoyed working alongside Mariana Islanders.
â€œWe appreciate and admire their resiliency,â€� he told Variety. â€œA disaster is difficult to go through in any environment but particularly when youâ€™re on an island, where itâ€™s more difficult to get people and supplies.â€�
â€œBut people are building back stronger and they are banding togetherâ€¦thereâ€™s a lot of hope here, a lot of people coming together, a lot of people who are forming partnerships and cooperating during this recovery process and itâ€™s an honor to be a part of it.â€�
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/109891-fema-reaching-out-to-typhoon-yutu-survivors