January 29, 2023

More than 200 have applied for FEMA assistance

Published Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 8:00 am

During a convened meeting of Troup County’s Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Small Business Administration (SBA) provided the county with an update on the federal disaster relief efforts.

FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer John Boyle and SBA Public Affairs Specialist Vivian Santos-Rodriguez provided information on how property owners and local residents can receive disaster relief due to the recent tornadoes and President Joe Biden’s subsequent disaster declaration.

As a result of the declaration, federal funds are available for public assistance in Butts, Henry, Jasper, Meriwether, Newton, Spalding and Troup counties. Boyle said about 240 FEMA employees are currently in Georgia to help with disaster relief. Many go door to door to register people when their homes have been damaged.

Just over 200 people registered in Troup County as of Tuesday morning, Boyle said.

Boyle said the most important thing is that homeowners, renters and individuals in the community who suffered damage from the Jan. 12 storm must register with FEMA. Whether they’re renters or homeowners, file with FEMA even if they have insurance, Boyle said.

“There could be things that insurance doesn’t cover, and they can get help with that,” Boyle said.

Boyle said people affected by the Georgia tornadoes can call 800-621-3362 or visit www.disasterassistance.gov to apply for help online.

“Fraud is also a big problem,” Boyle said. “Ask for a FEMA badge.”

When disasters strike, people sometimes claim they’re with FEMA when they’re not, Boyle said.

“If someone comes up and says they’re from FEMA and want information like a driver’s license or a credit card, we don’t charge for what we do, and neither does the SBA. We will never charge. We’re going to get personal information from people, but that’s going to happen because they have the ID and they can show that ID.”

Boyle said FEMA is still working on setting up a local office, which should open within a week.

Santos-Rodriguez said SBA had Glenn Robertson Dr. opened a help center to support the public and answer questions.

“We provide loans for renters, homeowners, nonprofit organizations and businesses, naturally low-interest and long-term loans,” Santos-Rodriguez said.

“When [people] Apply for help, federal aid, the first aid can be a loan, it can be a grant, it can be medical aid. We never know, but we encourage people to go there [to the website] or download the FEMA app so they can register,” said Santos-Rodriguez.

When FEMA says a person needs to get a loan rather than a grant, that doesn’t mean they have to, she said.

Santos-Rodriguez said they encourage people to apply because if they can’t help them, they will refer the person to FEMA, and FEMA will work with them.

“It’s very important to let everyone know when they get this letter from FEMA saying you need to go to the SBA. Don’t be disappointed. Do not be angry. Maybe they just need more information,” Santos-Rodriguez said. “This is not a final decision.”

Santos-Rodriguez said they offer two types of loans to businesses, for property damage and economic damage.

“With our loans, people get a 12-month deferral, and for the first year the person doesn’t have to pay anything and doesn’t pay interest,” she said.

The SBA makes loans up to $200,000 for homeowners and up to $40,000 for renters. Loans of up to $2 million are available to corporations, nonprofits, churches, and private universities.

“For homeowners and individuals, the interest rate is 2.34 [percent]as low as 3.3 percent for businesses and nonprofits 2,375 [percent]so they have very little interest and the first year you have no interest,” Santos-Rodriguez said.

The SBA encourages tornado victims to register and apply with FEMA, even if they have insurance. The loans can be used to pay for things that insurance doesn’t cover, and insurance payments can be used to pay the bills.

Tornado victims are also encouraged to take photos while they clean up damage and keep receipts for any items spent with federal funds.

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