The storm has passed and now the process of assessing the damage and rebuilding our homes, communities, and lives starts. It can be overwhelming figuring out where to start and how to navigate the various systems. This blog post is a guide for applying for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) and the Small Business Administration (“SBA”).
FEMA is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security that aims to help people before, during, and after disasters. If you are a victim of Hurricane Florence and within the counties declared a disaster by the President, you are eligible for financial assistance from FEMA for food, clothing, medical needs, shelter, and even funeral expenses1. To start a claim you can (1) visit www.disasterassistance.gov or (2) call 800-621-3362 if you do not have access to the internet.
Regardless of whether you apply online or over the phone, it will be helpful to have the following information ready for your application:
The online application takes approximately 20 minutes to complete if you have this information ready. Call the number above if you have specific questions about the application process.
The second step in the process is an inspection of the impacted property. FEMA will contact you within 10 days of your application submission to schedule an inspection2. In the meantime, you can begin clean up of your home. Remember to take pictures and/or videos of the damage and keep samples of damage, such as carpet, wallpaper, and cabinet doors, for the inspector.
Once the inspection has been completed, the adjuster will determine if and how much financial relief is available for you. It is important to note that FEMA cannot give you monies for losses covered by your insurance company. If you receive benefit from FEMA then also receive benefits from your insurance company, you are required by law to pay FEMA back. In addition to FEMA, you should file a claim with your insurance provider as soon as possible. If you are offered benefits from FEMA, they will either send you a check or direct deposit to your checking account, according to the preference you select on the application. ”All money offered by FEMA is tax-free and must be used as stated in your award letter3.”
Disaster assistance is also available to businesses and private non-profits through the Small Business Administration. However, these benefits come in the form of low interest loans. Business owners can apply (1) online at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance, (2) in-person at the disaster recovery center in Greenville at ECU, or (3) by mail (4).
After the application has been submitted, the SBA will verify the property and damage. Then, a loan officer will determine your loan eligibility. The SBA does review business insurance coverage, but can still make a loan while your insurance claim is pending. A case manager is assigned to each loan, and the SBA aims to complete the whole process within 2 to 3 weeks of application submission.
The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) is available to anyone who is self-employed and lost income due to the disaster. The DUA is a federal program that provides temporary payments to people in a federally declared disaster area whose employment or income has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of the disaster5. As of September 18, 2018, the following counties are eligible for DUA funding through the NC Division of Employment Security (NC ESC). The counties are as follows: Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Robeson, Sampson, and Wayne.
You might also be eligible for funding through the DUA if you meet any of the following conditions:
Further information on the DUA and what information you will need to apply can be found on their main website, which you can visit at https://des.nc.gov/DES/Static?page=faqMain#DUA. It is also important to note that you are able to apply for other disaster benefits even if you apply for DUA funding. Individuals from Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, and Pender counties have until October 17, 2018 to file an application. Individuals from Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Jones, Lenoir, Robeson, Sampson, and Wayne counties have until October 18, 2018 to file an application (6).
We hope you find this information useful as you work through the recovery process. In addition to the federal resources, there are also non-profit organizations that provide aid. We hope you find these links helpful during this time.
As always and especially during this time of recovery, Earney & Company, L.L.P. is here to assist you. Please reach out to us if you have further questions. Our prayers, thoughts, and support continue to be with all individuals who are facing loss, injury, and extensive property damage as the result of this terrible storm.
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