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Posted: September 28, 2017 12:29 p.m.
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FEMA offers help for hurricane recovery

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Disaster survivor assistants John Robello, right, and Guido Gallucci talk with Jill Ebrecht, a survivor of Hurricane Irma, at her home, Sept. 20, 2017 on Tybee Island, Georgia.

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The 2017 hurricane season has put people out of their homes, caused financial burden to those affected and severely altered the lives of many, but the season is not over – yet.

As a result of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma and future disasters threatening the area, Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives are urging Soldiers and their Family Members affected to seek assistance.

“We’re here to support the recovery process in coordination with the state and local governments – we have a partnership with them for this effort and we have from the very beginning,” said Woody Goins, a FEMA division supervisor.

There are seven designated counties in Georgia eligible for federal assistance following the impact from Hurricane Irma: Camden, Coffee, Chatham, Charlton, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties, said Steven Solomon, a FEMA spokesperson.

“FEMA is pledging to be here (in Georgia) as long as it takes to register every eligible survivor for federal assistance,” Solomon said.

There are currently 29 representatives in the area going to door-to-door to help people who have been affected by Hurricane Irma by getting them registered to apply for assistance, Solomon said.

Goins said people should come to FEMA if they have received damages.

“(FEMA) is based on supplementing available programs from state and local government and to be able to meet the needs of those people who qualify for FEMA programs,” Goins said.

The recovery process begins when those living in counties designated for disaster assistance complete the registration process through FEMA.

“It’s vital that survivors register with FEMA, ensure we have their current contact information and then coordinate with the housing inspector to schedule the inspection,” said Thomas McCool, federal coordinating officer. “The free FEMA housing inspections are an essential step in the recovery process for survivors who sustained damage to their homes.”

The registration process requires applicants to enter personal information to include their social security number as well as their bank account and routing number for the most efficient means for direct deposit, should they be found eligible, Solomon said. Beyond that, survivors must provide the address of the damaged home or apartment, description of the damage, when the damage occurred, information on insurance coverage and contact information.

Once registered, the survivor will receive a unique registration number that they should keep for their reference. FEMA warns that anyone who does not have a number is not yet registered, Solomon said.

Solomon said that even those who think the damage their home or property sustained as a result of the hurricane is too minimal to receive assistance should still register and have their property inspected.

“We’d like to reassure those people that while they’re having the best of intentions, there is no lack of funds available to ensure that everybody who is eligible has access,” Solomon said. “Sometimes it is not apparent right how significant the damage is, like mold. It might take time for that to be obviously visible.”

Solomon said people should start the application process before the deadline approaches. He noted nearly 11,000 Georgians have registered for federal assistance to recover from Hurricane Irma storm and flood damage, with more than $2.4 million approved for eligible disaster survivors.Assistance can be granted for things such as rent, funds for temporary housing, essential home repairs not covered by insurance and disaster-related needs not covered by insurance – medical, dental, transportation, funeral expenses, moving and storage fees, personal property loss and child care, Solomon said.

Solomon said along with the registration process, the survivor will likely also be asked to fill out an application with the U.S. Small Business Administration, which gives loans to people and not just businesses.

“Whether or not you want a loan, you need to fill out their separate package of information and they’ll come back and say (the survivor) does qualify for a low-interest loan or they don’t,” Solomon said.

Despite the application, survivors don’t have to accept it, but if they are rejected, Solomon said it may make them eligible for more FEMA grants. 

“What we do guarantee is that if they do register for assistance, we will look into their specific situation, their home and their damages,” Goins said. “For those that don’t qualify for FEMA, we look for other programs and voluntary programs that can provide assistance.”

Goins said he walked on Tybee Island and talked to people prior to the county being declared eligible. There are disaster survivor assistance teams traveling the island to conduct research and assist people in registering through FEMA or an available program for them.

“They were really hurting in some areas; they had been flooded twice now from Hurricane Matthew and (Irma) and all within not even one year,” Goins said. “That certainly made it a more difficult situation for them.”

FEMA grants are not taxable and do not affect social security or other federal benefits citizens may already receive, Solomon said. They do not have to be repaid.

Solomon said those waiting on a response on their eligibility should not wait to make repairs, to take pictures of the damage and to keep all receipts for later submission.

 

The deadline to seek assistance from devastation incurred as a result of Hurricane Irma through FEMA is Nov. 14. To register, go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or download the FEMA app. Those seeking assistance can also call 800-621-FEMA (3362).


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