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Mayor Requests New Aid Deadline


Saying he worries that many earthquake victims are only now discovering the true extent of damage to their property, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan requested Friday that the deadline to seek federal aid be extended from Oct. 17 to Jan. 17, the first anniversary of the deadly temblor.

In a brief letter, Riordan asked the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to formally request the extension from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration.

"While some have progressed through damage assessments and moved on to repair and reconstruction, others are only now beginning to define their needs and apply for assistance," Riordan wrote.

He also asked that disaster assistance centers remain open until Jan. 17.

OES spokesman Dennis Williams said the state agency was considering an extension of the deadline even before Riordan sent the letter.

"We are evaluating that right now," he said.

A FEMA spokesman said he had not received the letter, but added: "We'll consider any request on its merits and needs."

The deadline had been previously extended from Sept. 17 to Oct. 17.

As of this week, FEMA and SBA had received 634,852 requests for assistance, according to officials. The SBA has received 212,722 loan requests and approved 105,492 applications for loans totaling $3.4 billion. Another 88,459 applications were rejected and 16,205 were withdrawn by the applicants.

An SBA spokesman said his agency is still receiving 200 to 300 loan applications daily.

Riordan and Los Angeles Controller Rick Tuttle said they fear that many quake-damaged businesses need additional time and assistance to apply for aid.

In August, an SBA survey found that many quake victims failed to apply for aid because they did not understand the agency's loan-application process. In response, FEMA and SBA sent out 632,950 letters in the past few weeks, offering additional help and toll-free telephone information numbers.

But Riordan and Tuttle are concerned that the letters may not have reached every quake-damaged business in the city. Both have sent letters to FEMA asking the agency to investigate.

Deputy Controller Tim Lynch said federal officials told him that only 21,000 businesses in Los Angeles have received copies of the letter, even though the total of SBA applications from businesses far exceeds that number.

But FEMA spokesman Russ Edmonston disagreed. He said every business and individual who filled out an application for aid has received a letter. In addition, he said, 21,000 businesses that qualify for a special city assistance program got copies of a letter that explains that program.

"Everyone who registered with FEMA or SBA got a letter," Edmonston said.

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