Hard hit Rhode Island looks to federal aid as floods recede
Rhode Island took the brunt of this week's floods, and the state will look to federal aid, along with flood insurance, to cover much of the worst damage.
Boston — After the floods of water come the floods of money.
New England states will see an influx of federal aid and insurance-claim dollars following March rainstorms that caused severe flooding.
It can't cover all the economic losses that homeowners and businesses face, particularly in Rhode Island. That state is bearing the brunt of this week's damage and is also among the states hardest hit by recession-related unemployment.
Even as warm sunshine bathed the region Thursday, the region was still coping with high water that could linger for days in some areas – including areas of Rhode Island where river water has been contaminated with sewage from treatment plants overwhelmed by the storm.
Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri called the floods "another whack" at the state's economy. At a news conference Thursday, he said it's too early to tally the damage but that it will be at least in the tens of millions of dollars.
Still, President Obama's declaration of disaster zones in Rhode Island and Massachusetts this week mean that federal relief money is on the way. That, along with flood insurance, will cover much of the worst damage from the floods, which also reached into Connecticut.
In Rhode Island and seven Massachusetts counties, the aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says those affected can seek help online here or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA.
Some disruptions to the economy were relatively brief. A flooded patch of Highway 95, a major traffic artery for the region, reopened Thursday. But the swollen Pawtuxet River in Rhode Island is expected to remain well above flood stage into Saturday, according to news reports. For many homeowners and businesses the recovery will take longer still.
The floods put one major mall near Warwick, R.I., temporarily out of action. And a few small-business owners aren't sure if they'll ever reopen. The storm's aftermath could prompt more homeowners to buy flood insurance, even if they're not in an official flood zone. The US government offers the insurance, but consumers buy it through private-sector insurance firms.
But only about one in five homeowners in the Northeast has flood coverage, says Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded group. Residents of any region can assess their local degree of risk here.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.