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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

FEMA eclipses $1 billion in North Carolina funding as deadline to register is Thursday at midnight

Pender County's recovery center will close Wednesday at 5 p.m. while New Hanover's center at Independence Mall will remain open until further notice.

Update: Governor Cooper announced on Thursday afternoon that the registration deadline for FEMA assistance had been pushed back to Dec. 19.

RELATED: FEMA assistance deadline extended to Dec. 19 as Governor Cooper tours Pender County

WILMINGTON — Time is running out for North Carolinians affected by Florence to seek federal disaster assistance.

The deadline to apply for assistance from FEMA or for a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) is 11:59 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13.

This brings to a close federal funding first made available by President Donald Trump’s declaration of disaster for North Carolina on September 15, a day after Hurricane Florence made landfall on the state’s southeastern coast.

Trump’s declaration authorized federal funding to “supplement State, Tribal, and local recovery,” according to a White House briefing at the time.

According to FEMA spokesperson Rebecca Kelly, all disaster recovery centers in the Cape Fear region will be closed by Thursday, with the exception of New Hanover County’s center located at the Independence Mall (3500 Oleander Drive), which will remain open until further notice.

Pender County’s recovery center, located at the Pender County Agricultural Building auditorium (801 Walker Street, Burgaw) will close Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Brunswick County recovery center in Bolivia closed Nov. 29.

Yesterday the agency eclipsed $1 billion in North Carolina recovery funding, according to FEMA spokesperson Rebecca Kelly.

“That number goes up exponentially every day,” Kelly said. “I think there’s been a dramatic increase because people recognize that the opportunity for disaster assistance is going to come to a close tomorrow at 11:59 p.m.”

Kelly was speaking from the Independence Mall recovery center, which she said on Tuesday had accepted 91 registrations and 35 people seeking updates to their applications.

“We always have a full house here,” Kelly said.

She said that FEMA has completed 99 percent of their home inspections in the state.

As the deadline looms, Kelly highlighted key considerations for those who may need assistance or for those who need to update previous applications.

Talking to a program specialist can be a major help

“Oftentimes an individual will get better results if they have an opportunity to explain every single aspect of what their recovery needs are at a recovery center,” Kelly said.

She encouraged people who are able to travel to a recovery center and talk to a program specialist, rather than simply filling out an application online.

“Depending on how you answer a question can affect what doors are opened for you. If you don’t have a complete understanding of the question, it is going to be a challenge,” Kelly said.

Take, for instance, the following question: Are you willing to re-locate?

“If you said you’re not willing to re-locate, you told me two things: One, your house isn’t really that bad if you’re willing to stay, and two, you don’t need to receive temporary shelter, which is the hotel stay program,” Kelly said.

Make necessary updates to your applications

“Needs change daily, and they have certainly changed since the disaster declaration,” Kelly said.

She cited a case that has become more and more apparent post-Florence: mold infestations that were not apparent to evacuees when they originally returned to their affected homes.

Many people don’t think they can seek federal assistance

“We have programs for any kind of recovery an individual could possibly dream up,” Kelly said.

So for people who didn’t know they could apply for assistance: the last time to register is Thursday at midnight.

“This means for people who didn’t feel like they had a need, who didn’t want to take resources from another person who may have more needs, or for renters,” Kelly said.

The amount offered is lower than expected

Some people who lost homes may receive $3,000 when they expected $30,000.

“Things could have changed since the beginning of the storm,” Kelly said. “Needs have changed dramatically over the past couple of months.”

She encouraged people who believe their needs outweigh what they were promised from FEMA to visit a recovery center.

“Let them know you’re still struggling, or need a temporary shelter, or seek a more permanent housing situation,” Kelly said.

Ways to register

You can use the helpline to update contact information, ask questions about a determination letter from FEMA, find information about FEMA home inspections, or learn about the process of appealing a decision.

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