Friday, August 23, 2013

Fire disaster assistance available

Workers, evacuees and businesses could get help

Express Staff Writer

As firefighters, like this man from the Alta crew from Utah, start leaving to work on other wildfires, some business owners are starting to assess the economic impacts of the Beaver Creek Fire. Photo by Roland Lane

    The tourism-based economy in the Wood River Valley took a hit from the two-week-long Beaver Creek Fire, which struck at the height of the summer season.
    The Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference and numerous smaller events were canceled.
    Government assistance is available for employees and business owners who were affected by the fire. Insurance companies may also provide rental assistance for those forced to leave their homes because of the fire.

Assistance for employees
    The Idaho Department of Labor’s Wood River Valley office in Bellevue is open to handle unemployment insurance benefit claims from local workers whose jobs were curtailed as a result of the fire.
    The office is located at 733 N. Main St, Suite C, in Bellevue and is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Wednesday.
    “Claims for unemployment benefits are made over the Internet and can be filed by workers whose hours have been reduced because the fires have severely disrupted tourism,” said Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick.
    Unemployment insurance benefits will be based on a record of an employee’s earnings between April 2012 and March 2013. Workers must have earned at least $1,872 during one of the four quarters beginning April 2012 and at least $468 in the rest of the quarters combined.
    Fick said the minimum weekly benefit is $72 for ten weeks. The maximum weekly benefit is $357 per week for 26 weeks.
    The U.S. Small Business Administration has economic injury disaster loans of up to $2 million with 4 percent interest rates and a four-month deferral on the first loan payments.

Assistance for businesses
    SBA Public Information Officer Kevin Wynne said the Idaho Gov. Butch Otter would have to request the SBA to make a disaster declaration for the area impacted by the Beaver Creek Fire in order for the loans to become available.
    For the Wood River Valley to be included in the SBA loan assistance program, at least 25 homes and/or businesses must have been substantially impacted by the fire.
    “There has been no request made yet for an initial assessment,” Wynne said on Thursday.
    Interested businesses are urged to contact Jerry Miller of the Idaho Department of Commerce at or (208) 287-0780.
    Businesses expressing an interest in receiving disaster assistance will be placed on a contact list and will receive regular updates as to the status of the SBA disaster declaration.

Assistance for evacuees
    The Blaine County Housing Authority posted a memo Thursday reminding evacuees that many insurance policies cover loss of home use due to fires.
    If you had to leave your home due to a mandatory evacuation, your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy may reimburse you for expenses related the loss of use of your home during the evacuation period.
    “Covered expenses may include hotel, additional food, pet boarding or other expenses,” wrote the BCHA. “Check with your agent.”

Businesses look to rebound
Sun Valley Marketing Alliance spokesman Greg Randolph said the business community is planning to rebound from the “hiatus” brought on by the Beaver Creek Fire by beginning with discounted sales of stockpiled merchandise. “We were in the middle of one of the best summers in five to seven years,” said Randolph. “We are still looking forward to a great fall season. There are many events scheduled for September.”

Tony Evans:

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