Seventy-two million dollars in federal disaster assistance have been approved to date for survivors of the June 22-29 severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides. The aid comes to West Virginia as a result of the major disaster declaration signed by President Obama on June 25.
The money has come to survivors in the form of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants to individuals and households; FEMA public assistance grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations; low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Nearly five weeks into the recovery, FEMA has approved nearly $29.8 million in housing assistance, more than $5.4 million in other needs assistance and $1.43 million in public assistance. In addition, the SBA approved 426 low-interest disaster loans totaling more than $27.9 million, and 939 NFIP claims have been filed totaling more than $7.5 million in payouts.
A total of 8,034 households and businesses have applied to FEMA for disaster assistance. Individual disaster assistance grants for homeowners, renters and businesses affected are available to residents of 12 counties: Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers, and Webster.
Disaster assistance for individuals may include grants to help homeowners and renters with temporary housing, essential home repairs, personal property replacement, and serious disaster-related needs. Disaster assistance grants from FEMA are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicare and other federal and state programs. Grants do not have to be repaid to the federal government.
Public assistance grants are available in Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Randolph, Upshur and Wayne counties and are also available in the 12 individual assistance counties. FEMA Public Assistance Grants provide funding to state, tribal and local governments, and certain types of private, nonprofit organizations. These monies help communities quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies declared by the president.
FEMA-contracted housing inspectors have completed nearly 6,400 inspections of disaster-damaged properties to verify damage.
Registering with FEMA is the first step in qualifying for disaster assistance. Aug. 24 is the last day for survivors to file an application. FEMA encourages all survivors who sustained disaster-related damage or losses to apply by phone (voice, 711 or relay service) at 800-621-3362 (TTY users should call 800-462-7585) or online at DisasterAssistance.gov . The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.
In support of the State of West Virginia, 89 Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) personnel have been canvassing storm-damaged neighborhoods. In the first 30 days of recovery operations, DSA workers visited 15,720 homes in severely storm-damaged neighborhoods. They are equipped to register survivors with FEMA and answer their questions about disaster assistance.
The State and FEMA operate Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Monroe, Nicholas and Webster counties. The centers report 6,506 visitors to date. An easy-to-use DRC Locator is available at http://asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm
The SBA, one of FEMA’s partners in disaster recovery, offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses, homeowners and renters. SBA disaster loans may cover repairs, rebuilding, as well as the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged real estate and personal property. SBA has staff on hand at all FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) to assist survivors, one-on-one.
For more information about SBA loans, call SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.sba.gov/disaster. TTY users may call 800-877-8339. Applicants may also apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. The deadline to file an SBA physical disaster loan application is Aug. 24.
If your SBA loan application is approved, you may be eligible for additional funds to cover the cost of improvements that will protect your property against future damage. Examples of improvements can include something as simple as elevating to the first floor utilities, water heaters and furnaces, sump pumps, etc. Mitigation loan money would be in addition to the amount of the approved loan, but may not exceed 20 percent of total amount of physical damage to real property to a maximum of $200,000 for home loans.
In addition, the SBA operates three Business Recovery Centers (BRCs) to enable storm-impacted businesses to meet individually with SBA representatives and find out how a low-interest disaster loan can help them recover.
The Greenbrier County BRC is located at Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corp., 804 Industrial Park, Suite 5, Maxwelton. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Other help available to individuals:
• For those who lost work as a result of the storms, Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available. New claims for DUA must be filed within 30 days of the date of the announcement of availability of DUA. For more information, visit WorkForce West Virginia at workforcewv.org.
• In conjunction with FEMA, WorkForce West Virginia is advertising open temporary positions in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Raleigh Counties. Interested “local hire” applicants may complete an enrollment form at http://workforcewv.org .
• Free disaster legal assistance is available to storm survivors. This service offers counseling on insurance claims, landlord-tenant issues, home-repair contracts, and the replacement of legal and other legal matters. Call the toll-free hotline 877-331-4259.
Survivors may be eligible for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (D-SNAP) benefits through the Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. D-SNAP benefits can be used to buy food, but cannot be used for alcoholic beverages, tobacco or non-food items. Storm survivors can apply for these benefits from July 25 through July 31. More information is available at www.dhhr.wv.gov