|Date:||December 14, 2016|
|Source:||The Florida Times-Union|
Those affected by Hurricane Matthew but have not yet applied for assistance must do so by Friday.
That is the deadline for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Disaster Agency. And it’s also the final day to apply for U.S. Small Business Administration loans.
The agencies offer various forms of assistance, including federal grants for temporary housing and emergency home repairs, low-interest disaster loans and free recovery help through partnerships with volunteer organizations for eligible applicants.
This week marks the end of a long process designed to help those with significant losses due to hurricane damage in October. There have been a series of community meetings, tours by relief officials and the deployment of several mobile assistance centers.
It’s been a trying time for a portion of the area’s population, but St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said the efforts of FEMA workers have mostly made things better.
“I know that there are probably people who were affected who may not feel that way,” she said. “I will say that I think FEMA and the SBA, within the constraints of what their mission is and what they are able to do, have done a very good job.”
People who suffered losses in the hurricane are not likely to receive enough aid to completely cover everything, especially those who were uninsured or under-insured. But Shaver said the overall effort from FEMA and other assistance workers has made a big difference.
“The compassion and the way that they deal with people is very impressive,” she said. “The staff people I have met with have all been focused on nothing but doing everything they can as quickly as they can to help people.”
Alberto C. Moscoso, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said 40,810 people had registered for individual assistance through Nov. 22.
He added that SBA has approved $1.15 million so far in its Business Disaster and Economic Injury Disaster Loans programs due to Matthew.
Locally, the loan program has helped several businesses stay afloat during a difficult time, said Isabelle Rodriguez, president of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. She said it started with the bridge loans in October through the Florida Small Business Development Center and then continued with the SBA program.
“We’ve had quite a bit of traffic through here,” she said. “Definitely needed. The bridge loan (program) was critical in keeping people in operation. That was really important to have.”
Rodriguez said it’s important to register for assistance or loans even if you’re not sure of your storm damage yet. Business owners can decide not to take a loan, but if they don’t register now, they won’t get access to the low-interest loans if they find out that they really do need them.
Anyone seeking help is reminded that even if you applied with another agency or organization, you must register with FEMA by Friday to access federal disaster grants or SBA loans. To register for FEMA assistance, residents can call 800-621-3362 or go online to disasterassistance.gov.
Also, the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at 3111 Agricultural Center is open through Friday. Those who want to apply for a small business loan can visit the SBA center near the Chamber of Commerce office in the St. Augustine Record building at One News Place.
In addition to reminding people of the deadline, Moscoso also pointed out that FEMA isn’t set up to cover 100 percent of everyone’s damage.
“Under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Programs, the nationwide average is about $6,000 per survivor, while the maximum amount under FEMA IA in 2016-17 is $33,300,” he said in an email to The Record. “FEMA funding is intended to be the last resort funding for individuals, with insurance and SBA loans constituting the bulk of their recovery.”