Housing assistance: USDA'S Rural Development is encouraging residents affected by the disaster to immediately apply for funding assistance under Rural single family housing loan and grant programs. Funds are available for housing repair, rehabilitation and home purchases.

For home financing, USDA will assist with expediting lender approval and approval for access to the Guaranteed Underwriting Services; and offer streamlined loan processing. Individuals needing payment assistance on their existing USDA Rural Development Single and Multi-family loans are encouraged to contact the Centralized Servicing Center at (800) 414-1226.

Community assistance: Rural communities in Presidentially declared disaster areas may be eligible for funding through Rural Community Facilities programs.

Facilities eligible for funding include schools, libraries, childcare centers, hospitals, medical clinics, assisted living facilities, fire and rescue stations, police stations, community centers, public buildings and transportation.

These communities can contact USDA Rural Development offices to determine which program is applicable to assist them.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service state operations are prepared to work with local communities to determine Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) requests in the disaster areas.

EWP helps protect lives and property threatened by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. The program provides technical and financial assistance to preserve life and property threatened by excessive erosion and flooding.

Owners, managers, and users of public, private or tribal lands are eligible for EWP assistance if their watershed area has been damaged by a natural disaster. NRCS can fund immediate actions necessary to address threats to life or property (exigencies).

Exigency funds are provided and approved quickly to lessen the threat to lives and property that exists as a result of storms or flooding. For example, exigency funding can be used to remove stream blockages and debris. Debris can include twisted trees and other woody vegetation as well as home construction materials.

The removal of stream debris is important because obstructions increase the risk of flooding thus the further risk to life and property.

Other conditions where EWP exigency funds can be used include embankment stabilization and erosion control around culverts or bridges of open roads. If these areas are not protected and stabilized after a storm or flooding there is increased threat to life and property.

Business assistance: Rural businesses in Presidentially declared disaster may be eligible for assistance through the Rural Business Service. Applicants or existing borrowers should contact their State USDA Rural Development office to determine which program is applicable to assist them.

Utility assistance: Should any existing water, telecommunications or electric program borrowers need to seek assistance from Rural Development, contact your local Rural Development representatives or USDA's National Rural Development office.

Additional information about these assistance programs, safety tips and updates about USDA's hurricane relief efforts are posted on the Web at www.usda.gov/disaster. Click on the hurricane relief link.

Rural Development state office contact information is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Home.html.

And information about the U.S. Government's hurricane response efforts is available at www.ready.gov.