FEMA getting Florence victims into temporary housing

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— Families who lost their homes to Hurricane Florence are starting to get into temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said Friday.

Ten families are already in travel trailers and two mobile homes were being set up Friday, said Albie Lewis, FEMA’s coordinator in North Carolina.

“These housing units are temporary. They’re not meant for the long term,” Lewis said. “They are a step toward that longer-term recovery.”

FEMA hopes to get people into more permanent housing within six months, he said, but the temporary units could remain in place for up to 18 months.

About 600 families across 10 hard-hit counties in southeastern North Carolina – Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Robeson counties – are expected to be put in trailers or mobile homes while their damaged homes are repaired, primarily in areas where little rental housing is available, Lewis said.

Lewis and Mike Sprayberry, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, said officials had to cleared many hurdles in the days after the hurricane, such as local ordinances restricting where trailers and mobile homes could go, to get the housing placed quickly.

Survivors of the storm who need housing are urged to contact FEMA at 800-621-3362 or online at DisasterAssistance.gov to determine if they qualify for temporary housing. About 90,000 damage inspections have already been conducted, Lewis said.

Those who can make quick repairs to their homes may receive a trailer, while mobile homes are used for families with more serious damage or special needs, he said. The housing is placed on victims’ property, if feasible, or a commercial site.

Since Florence hit the state five weeks ago, 127,000 families have registered with FEMA for some type of assistance, and the agency has awarded $102 million in grants. The National Flood Insurance Program has paid out $214 million in claims in the state, and the Small Business Administration has approved $200 million in loans to repair homes and businesses.