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If your home is damaged in Hurricane Florence, you may be able to get help from the federal government to cover some of the costs. It doesn’t matter if you rent or own, or whether or not you have insurance coverage.
On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a major disaster North Carolina and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts. The action makes federal money available in Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, and Pender counties, according to a White House press release.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners.
Federal funding also is available to state and to tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties, the release said. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Albert Lewis the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Residents and business owners can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
The president’s declaration followed Gov. Roy Cooper’s request that Trump issue an official disaster declaration. Cooper was joined Friday by all 15 members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, who also asked Trump to declare an official disaster for Florence.
“We know this massive storm will cause incredible damage and I’m asking Washington to act quickly so federal recovery help can come as soon as possible,” Cooper said.
People applying for FEMA aid need to be able to provide some identifying information to FEMA, including:
▪ Your Social Security number, or the social security number of a child living at the house.
▪ Annual household income.
▪ Contact information, insurance information and bank account information.
FEMA also needs applicants’ bank account information so that if they’re approved for aid, the agency can directly deposit their money into their accounts.
Anyone who is denied will still be notified and given a chance to appeal. But FEMA doesn’t help with everything. For instance, FEMA aid only is available for your primary residence — not vacation homes. FEMA also will not “duplicate the assistance you receive from your insurance company, but you may receive assistance for items not covered by insurance,” the agency’s website says.
However, since Hurricane Florence is expected to cause heavy flooding, it’s unlikely that many people will be able to get their insurance company to help cover damages. Only 3 percent of the homes in North Carolina have flood insurance, according to a McClatchy analysis of federal data.
Other than aid from FEMA, homeowners, renters and business owners can also apply for low-interest home repair loans from the federal government’s Small Business Administration in the wake of a natural disaster.
More information about those loans and how to apply is available at https://disasterloan.sba.gov.
The North Carolina government also can help with rebuilding or repairing your home. More information is available at rebuild.nc.gov.
People who want to apply for home rebuilding money from the state are required to provide a number of documents, including:
▪ A photo ID and proof of either citizenship or legal residency (like a U.S. passport or green card).
▪ Proof that you lived in the damaged home (like a utility bill from the same month the storm hit).
▪ Copies of tax returns or pay stubs for all the adults who live in the home.
▪ Copies of any payments from insurance companies or other government agencies for damage to the home.
More details can be found online at www.rebuild.nc.gov/apply.
Filing home insurance claims
When the storm passes, insurance agents will be out in force to assist homeowners with filing their property insurance claims.
The N.C. Department of Insurance will also assist in processing claims. The agency plans to set up Consumer Assistance Centers in shopping centers and other public places, to be announced at a later date. The locations will be listed at www.ncdoi.com.
The insurance department is warning residents to beware of scam artists who prey on storm victims. The agency said to take these steps to protect yourself against unscrupulous contractors or handymen:
▪ Be wary of sales reps who go door-to-door to solicit business.
▪ Be sure the contractor is insured and licensed.
▪ Get all estimates in writing, including schedules and materials.
▪ Don’t sign blank contracts and don’t pay a contractor in full until the work is completed.
Job loss aid
When a disaster hits, people don’t just lose their homes. Some also lose their jobs. And if that happens, a different federal agency can help.
Thanks to a post-recession law passed in 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor has money for grants to retrain people for new careers or help them go back to school. Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Labor Secretary, said Thursday that his department will send additional grant money to North Carolina counties that are hit by Hurricane Florence.
“As we did during last year’s destructive hurricane season, Americans will come together to rebuild their communities,” he said. “The Department of Labor is here to help ensure the safety and stability of North Carolinians along the way.”
To find a local state-run career center, go to https://ncworks.gov
Small business aid
The low-interest loans for homeowners and renters through the Small Business Association also apply to people who own their own businesses.
To learn more or to apply, go to https://disasterloan.sba.gov
Business owners whose property sustained damage from the storm or economic losses from having to close down — even if there were no physical damages — can qualify for SBA loans. So can losses that occurred if a business had one or more of its employees called up for emergency response duty because they’re in the military reserves.
All three of those loan types can be as much as $2 million.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran