Residents urged to apply for flood recovery aid

FEMA disaster recovery centers open in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties

By: Brian Louwers, Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published October 9, 2014

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METRO DETROIT — Help is on the way. For many, it’s already here.

Residents in metro Detroit still dealing with the aftermath of historic flooding in August are being encouraged to apply for available disaster assistance grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Anyone who suffered property damage as a result of the flooding disaster on Aug. 11 is now eligible to apply for aid through FEMA and the SBA by phone, online or in person at one of four disaster recovery centers that opened Oct. 7.

The deadline to apply for assistance to cover physical damage is Nov. 24.

“So far we’ve had 42,393 people register and we have approved $33,827,532,” FEMA media relations specialist Rita Egan said Oct. 8.

Residents with flood damage are able to apply for both cash grants from FEMA and low-interest loans through the SBA. The separate programs are designed to assist with different aspects of post-disaster recovery.

“The old rule of thumb is FEMA’s here to give you a helping hand to get you back on your feet. We want you to be in a safe, sanitary and secure situation,” Egan said. “The Small Business Administration — they can help homeowners, renters and businesses — can get you back to where you were.”

Grants from FEMA can be awarded to offset the costs of cleaning flood-damaged properties and making them livable. Housing assistance is available for qualified applicants, and homeowners who purchased a dehumidifier to mitigate damage after the flood could also be eligible for reimbursement.

Applicants will be asked to provide the names and Social Security numbers of all family members affected by the disaster. They must also provide a gross household income amount.

Once the application process is complete by phone, online or in person at one of the disaster recovery centers, property owners will be contacted and asked to schedule a brief inspection with a FEMA contractor. The contractor will take measurements and may take photos of damaged properties, and may ask to see receipts, identification and proof of ownership. Inspectors can also be referred to photos submitted as part of a claim to the city, if the photos are no longer in the possession of the property owner.

After the inspection, a determination should be made within seven to 10 days, but sometimes can come much sooner.  The inspector does not make the determination, but rather provides additional information as a result of the inspection.  Egan said the determinations are made by program specialists but that all decisions are appealable.

Applicants can be notified by email or regular mail if they qualify, and can receive checks for grant funds in the mail or by direct deposit.

Grants funds awarded by FEMA do not need to be paid back.

“We’re granting you money to get you back on your feet,” Egan said. “You do not pay them back. You should spend the funds responsibly.”

Officials also noted that low-interest loans available through the SBA are for homeowners and renters, as well as those who own businesses or run businesses out of their homes.

“Please apply,” said Richard Daigle, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. “We don’t want our name to throw people off. We are the disaster arm of the SBA and help homeowners, renters, as well as businesses.”

Daigle said loans available to homeowners, renters and business owners include repayment terms of up to 30 years and interest rates as low as just over 2 percent.

He added that those who receive FEMA grants and/or insurance proceeds may still have to borrow money to recoup losses from the flood.

“That’s where the SBA comes in, to fill the gap,” Daigle said. “You don’t have to accept the loan.”

Officials said approved borrowers could use SBA loans to pay repair costs while they wait for an insurance settlement, which could then be used to repay the loan without penalty.

As with FEMA, Daigle said the SBA sends field inspectors to assess damage and that all applicants may appeal initial determinations.

It is important to note that the application processes for FEMA grants and SBA loans is completely separate from any claim forms residents may have filed with the city in the wake of the August flooding.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who had called on state and federal leaders to issue disaster declarations after the flood, again urged all Warren residents to seek assistance through FEMA and the SBA for any damage sustained during the event.

“I’m extremely impressed with the work of FEMA. There has always been the stereotype that the federal government moves at the speed of molasses, or in the best case at the speed of a caterpillar,” Fouts said. “For the first time in history, it’s moving quickly. They’re moving decisively and they’re actually writing out checks to people. I’m very appreciative of this.”

Egan suggested that residents who have questions about assistance through FEMA or the SBA should visit a disaster recovery center to speak with representatives in person. The center also has staff on hand to offer assistance with mitigating potential damage and hardship from future disasters.

DISASTER RECOVERY CENTERS:
All locations open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Closed Sunday)

Macomb County
Renaissance Unity Church
11200 E. 11 Mile Road
Warren

Oakland County
Gerry Kulick Community Center
1201 Livernois Ave.
Ferndale

Wayne County
Wayne County Community College Welcome Center
8200 W. Outer Drive
Detroit

Wayne County Community College Education and Performing Arts Center
21000 Northline Road
Taylor

Help online
Register for help from FEMA or the SBA online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by Web-enabled smartphone at m.fema.gov

Help by phone
FEMA: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
SBA: 1-800-659-2955

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