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Saturday January 23rd

IRS and universities make resources available to victims in hurricane aftermath

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While people are attempting to return to their normal lives after Hurricane Florence, affected students can expect flexibility at universities and resources like IRS tax relief.

President Donald Trump said in a press release Saturday that a major disaster exists in North Carolina and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender counties.

Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to repair property for people who don't have insurance.

Following the disaster declaration, the IRS announced Saturday that affected taxpayers in the counties listed in the president’s declaration will receive various forms of tax relief.

This includes postponing various tax-filing deadlines between now and the end of January 2019. 

Affected taxpayers in the disaster area also have the option of claiming disaster-related losses on their federal income tax return for this year or last year. Taxpayers can also deduct personal property losses not covered by insurance.

Taxpayers claiming disaster loss on a 2017 return should put the disaster designation “North Carolina, Hurricane Florence” at the top of the form, so the IRS can expedite processing, the press release said.

Students from these counties can expect flexibility and funding from some of their universities.

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson emailed the university community Tuesday and thanked the staff who worked during the storm, noting the university understood students’ absences.

Woodson said students who need assistance should review the Pack Essentials, which provides information on campus basic need resources, from the Division of Academic and Student Affairs.

He also highlighted the Student Emergency Fund, which requires students to show they looked for other options for funds and have no fault in the cause of their financial need.

Mike Giancola, N.C. State's assistant vice provost in charge of assessing claims, said the fund was created in April 2018 to help financially insecure students in emergencies. The fund has received steady requests since its inception, but saw a drastic increase after the hurricane.

Both N.C. State and UNC’s funds are generally capped at $500 and can only be used for emergencies, not tuition-related needs.

Giancola said it’s critically important for universities to have these funds because there are increasing numbers of students experiencing food and housing insecurities.

“If a student were to experience some sort of challenge, and then their option was to say ‘Well maybe I need to just drop out of school’ – that hurts the student, that hurts the investment that’s been made both by the student’s family and by the state – in this case being a state institution,” he said.

Giancola said what may stick in students’ minds is the realization that some of their peers are experiencing food and housing insecurity.

“Having funds like this is another example of the efforts that the institutions make to help support students and help them all until they graduate,” he said.

UNC-Wilmington’s emergency fund donation site is one of only two sites actively running after the university shut down its main site to preserve the site’s integrity. Fund allocations will be decided once campus becomes operational – which UNC-W Chancellor Jose Sartarelli expects to announce by the end of this week.

Sartarelli encouraged donations to the school's fund.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt also sent out a mass email Tuesday detailing the University's place in the aftermath. Folt said the University understood some students may not be able to attend class for some time and has asked faculty members to offer flexibility in working with students.

“We stand ready to do everything we can to provide care and resources to ensure affected students can make a successful return to campus,” she said.

UNC’s fund was not mentioned in messages from the University’s administration.

Folt, after thanking campus staff for their efforts during the storm, also said serving the state is an important part of their mission as a public university, and they will do everything they can to help the community and beyond.

“As we know from past experience, the road to recovery is a long one that will take all of us working together to persevere,” Folt said.

If you need assistance, contact the UNC Ombuds Office.

@CBlakeWeaver

city@dailytarheel.com

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