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Tasha Carter

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Recovery assistance is available



Date: September 16, 2017
Source: The Gainesville Sun



Alachua County was added last week to the list of counties that experienced a major disaster, allowing residents to apply for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Mangement Agency.

If you suffered significant damage from Hurricane Irma, either your personal property or your business, you can apply for FEMA assistance at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

You will need:

• Your Social Security Number

• The name of your insurance company, if applicable

• Description of the damage

• Financial information (income)

• Contact information

Below is a list of benefits and assistance this designation provides for businesses and individual resident that was provided by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Loans & assistance

Business Physical Disaster Loans: These loans are designed to help repair or replace damaged physical capital and can be up to $2 million, with interest rate cap of 4 percent for businesses with the inability to obtain credit elsewhere and 8 percent for businesses with such ability and a 30-year repayment limit.

Home and Personal Property Loans: These loans are available for homeowners - including non-business owners - who have experienced damage due to the disaster and may be up to $200,000 for primary residences, $40,000 for personal property, and SBA-assisted refinancing of mortgage. The assistance has an interest rate cap of 4 percent for applicants with the inability to obtain credit elsewhere and 8 percent for applicants with such ability. There is a 30-year repayment limit.

Small Business Administration (SBA): Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Individuals must first register with FEMA in order to receive SBA assistance. This can be done online, over the phone, or at FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Centers. https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/hurricane-irma

Transitional Sheltering Assistance: FEMA may provide Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) to eligible disaster survivors who are unable to return to their homes for an extended period and need shelter. TSA provides short-term lodging for eligible disaster survivors whose residence is uninhabitable or inaccessible.

Public Assistance: All 67 counties are eligible for Public Assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures resulting from Hurricane Irma.

Category A: Debris removal: 75% federal funding.

Category B: Emergency Protective Measures: For a period of up to 30 days from the start of the incident period, FEMA is authorized to provide federal funding for emergency protective measures including direct federal assistance, at 100% of the total eligible costs. Senators Rubio, Nelson and 20 members of the House have sent a letter to the President requesting that debris removal be covered at 100% federal cost, and for an extension past 30 days for reimbursement of Category B.

Private property debris removal (PPDR): Due to the magnitude of recent disaster events, FEMA is simplifying the process for PPDR approval. Applicants must provide a written notice through the Recipient (State, Tribal, or Territorial government) to FEMA identifying areas where PPDR activities will occur (including identification of gated or ungated communities, orphaned roads, or commercial properties). Once the notice is submitted, the Applicant does not need to wait for FEMA approval to start work. However, the Applicant must submit its written request for FEMA approval so that it may receive reimbursement for PPDR work. FEMA may only approve reimbursement based on the Applicant’s satisfactory demonstration (including relevant documentation) that the:

• PPDR was in the public interest

• Applicant has legal authority to perform debris removal activities on private property

• Applicant agrees to indemnify the Federal Government (including FEMA)

• Applicant obtained and complied with applicable permits or approvals for the locations of temporary debris staging and reduction sites and final debris disposal sites

• Applicant has satisfied all legal processes and obtained permission from the property owners (rights-of-entry or other unconditional authorization) and agreements to indemnify and hold harmless the Federal government.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): FEMA has directed its NFIP partner insurance companies and the NFIP Direct to begin issuing advance payments to help NFIP policyholders impacted by Hurricane Irma flooding begin their recovery.

If you have NFIP flood insurance and suffered damage during the recent floods related to Hurricane Irma, you may be eligible to receive up to $5,000 for building and contents damages prior to the adjuster’s inspection with a written, verbal, or electronic request.

If you have photos and receipts which validate your out-of-pocket expense, you may receive an advance payment up to $20,000. FEMA has increased the maximum amount from $10,000 to $20,000 with the updated bulletin.

To file a flood insurance claim under the NFIP, contact your insurance agent immediately. You can also call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) - select option 2 - to learn more about your policy, and be directed to the appropriate claims resource.

Avoiding scamos

Be vigilant against those who wish to scam victims of this storm. Some tips to avoid falling prey to scam artists:

Consumer Protection Coalition:The Florida Chamber and its Consumer Protection Coalition urge you to be on the lookout for unscrupulous home repair vendors and trial attorneys that try to profit off the disaster by asking you to sign an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). Remember consumers do not need to sign an AOB to get storm related home repairs or auto glass repairs made. You can find more about protecting yourself here.

ALWAYS contact your insurance company before you hire a contractor. If the storm damaged your home, car, or property and you have insurance, you can start the claims process by calling your insurance company. If you plan to claim damages related to flooding or storm damage, you should verify that you have the right kind of coverage. If you don’t have a copy of your insurance policy, you can ask for one. Ask for an electronic copy of your policy-receiving physical mail may be difficult following the storm. That will help you verify your coverage. If possible, take photos and videos of your damaged property. Documenting damage will help you with your insurance claim.

In person, always ask to see any FEMA employee ID badges. FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams may be in impacted communities providing information and assisting survivors with the registration process or their applicant files. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. All FEMA representatives, including our contracted inspectors, will have a laminated photo ID. All National Flood Insurance Program adjusters will have a NFIP Authorized Adjuster Card with their name and the types of claims they may adjust. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter claiming to be an emergency management official, do not give out personal information, and contact local law enforcement.

Be wary of:

• People who want you to pay up-front fees to help you claim services, benefits, or get loans.

• Contractors selling repairs door-to-door, especially when they ask to receive payment up front or offer deep discounts.

• Con artists posing as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials, or bank employees. It is easy to fake credibility and uniforms, so do not give out personal information to people you don’t know. Federal and state workers do not ask for, or accept, money. FEMA staff will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, home inspections, or help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance, or building permit process.

• Fake charities. Normally, legitimate organizations do not have similar names to government agencies or other charities; so if they do, it may be a scam. Never give out donations over the phone.

• Limited time offers. Anyone who offers you something and tells you that it is for a very limited time may be trying to pressure you into something that you could later regret. You should never be pressured to make a decision on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it. Take your time, read and understand anything presented to you, and ask a trusted friend, relative, or attorney before acting.

In Florida, disaster-related fraud information is available on the State Attorney General’s Office website at www.MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling the office at 1-866-966-7226.

Coping financially

Contact your mortgage servicer. Talk to your mortgage lender right away and tell them about your situation. Damage to your home does not eliminate your responsibility to pay your mortgage, however your lender may be willing to work with you given the circumstances. If you don’t have your lender’s contact information, your monthly mortgage statement, or coupon book with you, you can search the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) or call toll-free at (888) 679-6377 to find the company that services your mortgage.

Contact your credit card companies and other lenders. If your income is interrupted or your expenses go up, and you don’t think you will be able to pay your credit cards or other loans, be sure to contact your lenders as soon as possible. Ask your creditor to work with you. Explain your situation and when you think you might be able to resume normal payments. It is important to make those calls before your next payments are due.

Contact your utility companies. If your home is damaged to the point you can’t live in it, ask the utility companies to suspend your service. This could help free up money in your budget for other expenses.

Set priorities. After contacting the companies related to your most urgent financial needs, take a look at your bills and set priorities-including your mortgage, rent, and insurance payments. Given the countless people experiencing distress from the flooding, contacting your creditors may be difficult. Be persistent and make every effort to reach them.