FEMA deadline looms

Published 1:26 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oct. 31 is the deadline for people significantly affected by Hurricane Irene to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Residents must register with FEMA to get aid through that entity or the U.S. Small Business Administration, federal officials said in interviews Thursday.
“We never get as many people to apply as we’d like,” said William Koontz, an SBA spokesman.
As of late this week, 3,401 Beaufort County households and individuals had registered with FEMA, reads a news release from the agency.
Some 30,140 individuals and households had registered statewide, the release notes.
Storm victims who don’t qualify for FEMA grants to repair their homes or replace belongings may be eligible for low-interest loans through SBA, Koontz explained.
As of Thursday, SBA had approved hundreds of loans totaling $14,562,000 in North Carolina, he said.
“Obviously, those folks have applied,” Koontz said, “and there’s probably a bunch more that are in process as well.”
SBA and FEMA officials are encouraging people who have registered with FEMA and have received SBA loan packets to fill out and return the packets as soon as possible.
Once people register with FEMA, they have up to six months to finish their loan application if they’re designated for loan eligibility.
SBA loans aren’t exclusive to small businesses. The administration also helps renters and homeowners, according to Koontz.
“There’s the first piece of confusion because a lot of people look at (the loan paperwork) and say, ‘Small Business Administration. Well, I don’t own a business so I won’t even look at this,’” he said. “Which is unfortunate because we help homeowners and renters.”
The bulk of the loan money — $12.8 million — approved by SBA so far following Irene has been for homes, while the rest — $1.5 million — has gone to businesses, Koontz said.
Loan applicants must be employed, have acceptable credit and be financially able to repay loans.
“The SBA’s not going to put you in a position that you’re going to be financially strapped,” said Renee Bafalis, a FEMA spokeswoman.
On the housing front, FEMA’s hotel program for people displaced by Irene ends Oct. 28.
“Eligible applicants may stay for up to two weeks,” the FEMA release shows.
The deadline to apply for disaster unemployment assistance for those who lost work because of Irene is Nov. 1.
For more information, call FEMA at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
As of Friday, in excess of $38 million in state and federal assistance had been approved to push along the recovery in 35 of the state’s 100 counties, a late FEMA news release announced. The 35 counties were covered by a presidential disaster declaration triggering individual assistance, the release notes.