The good news: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering assistance grants to residents of Beaufort County in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
The bad news: If you’re already insured, you’re more likely to have a denial letter sent your way.
FEMA is upfront that individual grants are “not designed get you back to where you were before the storm,” but to ensure a safe and sanitary living space, spokesman Victor Inge said. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the extent of storm damage.
In 2015, FEMA gave almost $90 million in individual grants to South Carolinians, FEMA data shows.
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The average housing award was roughly $3,150. The average grant for other needs was just under $1,600.
More than 100,000 people statewide applied last year, but FEMA did not immediately provide the number of applicants who were rejected.
To file your FEMA application, visit disasterassistance.gov.
However, statistics provided by Mario Formisano, director of the Dorchester County Emergency Management Department, are not promising.
Of the roughly 4,500 Dorchester County residents who applied for individual assistance after last year’s flooding, about 1,500 — or only one-third — received some financial help, he said.
“It’s not like, if you have damages, you get a check written,” Formisano said. “It’s very far from a handout.”
One of the most common reasons for a denial letter is having insurance to cover the loss, according to FEMA’s website.
Another caveat in receiving a FEMA grant: Applicants may be required to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration before being considered for some types of individual assistance.
What FEMA covers
Individual assistance is capped at $33,300 with maximum reimbursements for the following needs set at:
▪ Up to $6,000 to repair or replace vehicle damaged by the disaster.
▪ Up to $3,600 for child care expenses for children ages 13 and under or ages 14 to 18 with a disability.
▪ Up to $7,000 for funeral expenses.
Assistance for uninsured needs described below have no caps aside from total household assistance not exceeding $33,300:
▪ Rental assistance: Applies to homeowners and renters who need temporary housing while repairs are made to their primary residence.
▪ Repair: Assistance to help homeowners make repairs.
▪ Replacement: Assistance to help homeowners replace a disaster-damaged home.
▪ Medical and dental: Includes hospital and ambulance services, replacement or purchase of medication and equipment.
▪ Personal property: To repair or replace essential household items including furnishings, appliances and specialized tools/clothing required by an employer.
▪ Miscellaneous: Items purchased or rented after a disaster as part of the recovery effort. Eligible items include chainsaws, air purifiers and dehumidifiers.
▪ Moving and storage expenses: Financial assistance to relocate and store personal property while repairs are made.
Food losses, insurance deductibles and secondary homes are not covered through FEMA’s grants.
When you register for a FEMA grant, the agency refers most applications also to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which offers loans, not grants, that must be paid back. Applicants can receive either a FEMA grant or SBA loan, or a combination of both, or neither.
Loan amounts and terms, which go up to 30 years, are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial circumstances.
Here’s a breakdown of who can apply:
▪ Homeowners can apply for loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged property.
▪ Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged personal property, such as furniture, clothing and vehicles.
▪ Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace property, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.
▪ Small businesses can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for up to $2 million regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage. However, if a business already applied for a physical damage loan, the cap for both loans is still $2 million.
2.63% Nonprofit organizations
1.56% Homeowners and renters
The only applicants who aren’t referred to SBA are those that fall below a certain income and are unable to afford the loan, SBA spokesman Matthew Young said.
Applicants can wait for SBA to follow up or, to expedite the process, they can begin their SBA application at www.disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
The filing deadline for physical property damage applications is Dec. 13. For economic injury applications, the deadline is July 12.
Workers who went without pay during the evacuation should apply for unemployment insurance benefits through the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, said spokesman Bob Bouyea.
If a worker is ineligible for state benefits, the state office can refer them for disaster unemployment assistance, funded by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bouyea said.
Self-employed individuals and business owners who lost income as a direct result of Hurricane Matthew can also apply for that assistance.
Caveats to the program include:
▪ Funds may cover expenses beginning only the day after the storm hit on Oct. 8.
▪ To be eligible for FEMA funds, workers need to show that lost wages were a direct result of the hurricane.
▪ The minimum assistance for a week of wages through the disaster fund is $127; the weekly maximum is $326.
▪ Anticipate a wait. FEMA unemployment-assistance funds will not become available to the state until three weeks from now.
▪ The earlier you apply, the better chance of receiving assistance.
To apply for unemployment insurance, visit dew.sc.gov and click on “My Benefits” in the top right corner, or call 1-866-831-1724.
Reporter Erin Heffernan contributed to this report.