Federal aid for Florence victims could surpass Matthew amount

Published 8:05 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

Although it could be weeks, possibly months, before the amount of federal assistance provided to Hurricane Florence victims is known, those assistance programs are gearing up for a flood of registrations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides individual assistance — housing assistance and other-needs assistance, among other assistance programs —for Florence victims. Housing assistance provides money for disaster-related housing needs, while other-needs assistance provides funds for other disaster-related needs such as household furnishings, transportation and medical care.

FEMA encourages those who register for assistance to keep in touch with FEMA to track their claims or to notify FEMA about changes to their mailing or email addresses or phone numbers, report insurance settlements or report additional damages they discovered since their homes were inspected by FEMA inspectors.

There are three ways to reach FEMA:

  • online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 for voice, 711 and Video Relay Service. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585.
  • download the FEMA mobile app.

FEMA has not released any information regarding requests for assistance from Beaufort County victims of Florence.

In the wake of 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, 692 households in Beaufort County had registered for recovery assistance by early February 2017, with $521,022 being approved, according to FEMA records. Of those 692 registered households, 220 of them were approved for assistance. Across the state, $99 million were approved for recovery assistance by early February 2017.

On Friday, Beaufort County was designated as one of eight counties eligible for individual assistance. Other counties likely will join that list.

FEMA also provides assistance to governments that meet specific qualifications. That program reimburses state, tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for some, if not all, of their storm recovery work.

Then there’s the National Flood Insurance Program. Homeowners’ and renters’ insurance does not cover flood-related damages. NFIP policies cover up to $250,000 for a policyholder’s housing structure and up to an additional $100,000 for a policyholder’s possessions.

To file a NFIP claim for flood damage, a policyholder should contact his homeowner’s insurance provider as soon as weather conditions are safe. A claims adjuster will assess the damage and determine which policy will cover what damage. Eventually, NFIP will write a check to pay for flood-related losses.

FEMA does offer small disaster grants that average $5,000 per household, far less than the average flood insurance claim of $30,000.

The Small Business Administration also provides homeowners and renters low-interest disaster loans that can be used to repair or replace houses and damaged property in disaster-declared areas. But these must be paid back eventually.

“The U.S. Small Business Administration is strongly committed to providing North Carolina residents with the most effective response possible to assist businesses, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans. Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority,” said SBA Administrator Linda McMahon in a statement.

The presidential disaster declaration covers Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender counties, which are eligible for both physical and economic injury disaster loans from the SBA. Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in the following adjacent counties are eligible to apply only for SBA economic injury disaster loans: Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Pitt, Sampson and Washington.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Nov. 13. 2018. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 14, 2019.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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