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Saturday December 4th

Orange County residents now eligible to apply for FEMA aid after Florence

<p>Kyrie and Michael Benton carry food and some of their waterlogged belongings through the grounds of Camelot Village apartments in Chapel Hill the morning of Sept. 17, 2018. Chapel Hill had been seemingly spared the worst of Hurricane Florence but Sunday night into Monday morning saw a downpour of heavy rain that caused flash flooding around the Triangle. Camelot Village has seen flooding in the past but never to this degree, according to Kyrie and other residents of many years. "I lost everything in this flood," Kyrie said. Just as quickly as it flooded, the water began to recede late the same morning and early in the afternoon.</p>
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Kyrie and Michael Benton carry food and some of their waterlogged belongings through the grounds of Camelot Village apartments in Chapel Hill the morning of Sept. 17, 2018. Chapel Hill had been seemingly spared the worst of Hurricane Florence but Sunday night into Monday morning saw a downpour of heavy rain that caused flash flooding around the Triangle. Camelot Village has seen flooding in the past but never to this degree, according to Kyrie and other residents of many years. "I lost everything in this flood," Kyrie said. Just as quickly as it flooded, the water began to recede late the same morning and early in the afternoon.

Orange County residents are now eligible for FEMA disaster assistance for damage caused by Hurricane Florence. 

FEMA offers federal financial relief for people affected by presidentially declared disasters. President Donald Trump declared Hurricane Florence a major disaster on Sept. 15, making some North Carolina residents eligible for relief. 

While the original declaration did not include Orange County as a disaster area, county residents can now apply if they experienced disaster-related damage to their homes or other expenses. The damage must have occurred as a result of Hurricane Florence between Sept. 7 and Sept. 29.

FEMA offers financial assistance for temporary home rentals and government housing if no other options are available. Displaced people living in hotels might be eligible for reimbursement, and funds to help with repairs and replacement are also available. 

Eligible disaster-related expenses include child care, medical and dental costs, and funeral and burial costs. Damages to essential household items, clean-up materials and moving and storing costs are also covered. 

N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer encouraged affected Orange County residents to apply in a Facebook post. However, FEMA cannot duplicate funds received from insurance, so Meyer also reminded applicants to file their insurance claim before applying for disaster assistance.

FEMA now also offers assistance through their mobile app, available on the iTunes and Google Play stores. 

James Moore, branch manager and assistant for the Stone Center Library, has family that lives in Pender County, which was originally slated to receive FEMA disaster assistance directly after Florence.

His sister began helping his parents with the application in the week the water began receding, which Moore said was a negative experience.

“I just feel like FEMA and the process is designed to confuse and to basically make you give up on the process," Moore said. "The application is online, and my sister says it’s about 30 pages long. If they reject you for any reason, or if there’s something that’s incorrect on your application, you have to resubmit the application.”

He feels his parents were not given reasonable aid.

“My parents are applying for (a Small Business Administration) loan, and my feeling is that the average person, especially their age, is not going to take an SBA loan," Moore said. "I mean, a 30 year SBA loan, for someone who’s 89 years old?”

Moore’s brother also applied for aid after Hurricane Florence. 

“My brother was rejected out of hand, basically told, 'You should have had flood insurance,'" Moore said. "The FEMA adjuster came into the house, they won’t even look at the house because the water has to reach to the ceiling. The water in the house was six to eight inches from the ceiling.”

Orange County officials though are still hopeful about the future of disaster relief aid in the county and remain adamant that everyone in the area should apply.

Kirby Saunders, coordinator of Orange County Emergency Management, highly encouraged all residents to apply for aid directly after working with their insurance agency. 

“Right now, we have no declaration from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Michael," Saunders said. "However, we would encourage them to apply anyway for assistance. If they sustained damages from Michael and Florence, certainly go ahead and apply.”

Saunders also warned against possible fraudulent officers.

“Nobody else should be calling them and asking them for banking information," Saunders said. "They should be doing all of that at disasterassistance.gov when they make the call. No federal, state or local government official should be coming and asking them for cash, or money, or debit card or credit card information.”

There are FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams offering help for those affected, and Saunders encourages Orange County residents to safely contact them.

“There are FEMA DSA teams touring Orange County right now," Saunders said. "Ensure that they have registered and they can ask any questions they have. They are clearly identifiable, they have FEMA shirts on, they have FEMA identification cards. They may make contact with people in the community to ascertain any unmet needs or damages.”

To help those that do not feel comfortable giving personal information over the phone, Saunders said Orange County has requested a FEMA mobile unit.

“We are also working to bring a mobile registration center to Chapel Hill, which would be an RV, a temporary space where people can come and register in person or ask questions that they have," Saunders said. "It would afford people the opportunity who don’t have access to internet or don’t feel comfortable making that phone call, to come in person and register for assistance and maybe get questions answered.”

For more information about FEMA disaster assistance, go to disasterassistance.gov.

@zoebeye

city@dailytarheel.com

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