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 you have insurance coverage.
President Donald Trump declared an official disaster in 10 additional North Carolina counties Monday night, adding to the eight that were already official disaster areas as of last Friday. The declarations are important because they open up those counties to receiving federal disaster relief money.
The 18 official disaster-stricken counties are Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne.
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.
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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 — and the North Carolina General Assembly will be back in session by at least Nov. 27, if not earlier, at which time lawmakers could set aside money for those cost-sharing grants or for other types of disaster relief.
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 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 declarations followed Gov. Roy Cooper’s request that Trump issue an official disaster declaration. Cooper was joined 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 the 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 caused 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
Additionally, people who lost their job due to the storm and who live in one of the 18 disaster counties might be eligible for unemployment benefits even if they normally wouldn’t qualify or if they have already used up their regular unemployment benefits.
The deadline to apply is Oct. 18. To learn more or to apply, people can call the North Carolina Division of Employment Security at 1-866-795-8877, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to https://des.nc.gov.
Small business aid
The low-interest loans for homeowners and renters through the Small Business Administration 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.
Businesses could be eligible for up to $2 million from each of those three types of loans.
Additionally, both the state and federal governments are extending some tax filing deadlines — which had passed on Sept. 7 — until Jan. 31, 2019 for certain individuals and businesses. To learn more about whether that applies to you, go to the N.C. Department of Revenue website at www.ncdor.gov