RALEIGH, N.C. -- To accelerate the recovery process, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has increased to more than 400 the number of inspectors checking damaged properties in North Carolina, according to Glenn Woodard, head of the federal disaster recovery operations for Hurricane Floyd.
Nearly $10 million in housing assistance has been distributed to more than 6,200 North Carolina families in the aftermath of the storm. Another 4,500 homes have been inspected and the applications are being processed by FEMA, says Woodard.
"While the disaster recovery is well under way in North Carolina, it is a process that will be very difficult and take a very long time," Woodard said. "But we want people to know that FEMA will be here to help no matter how long it takes."
FEMA is operating 19 Disaster Recovery Centers in North Carolina; the most recent opened in Robeson County on October 5. There are 550 FEMA workers assisting in the North Carolina recovery joined by 247 from other federal agencies.
Approximately 54,000 people in North Carolina have applied for federal disaster assistance, a process that starts with a call to FEMA's toll-free registration line. (The application number is 1-800-462-9029; TTY is 1-800-462-7585.)
Applications are taken over the phone and applicants are given a control number so they can check on their application at any time. They are also provided information on how the process works. Applicants whose homes are uninhabitable, for example, can receive FEMA-funded vouchers for living expenses and rental assistance from the American Red Cross. When applying for assistance, residents can also indicate their interest in moving into one of the hundreds of temporary travel trailers jointly sponsored by FEMA and the state.
Residents who are able to return to their damaged homes are encouraged to take photos or videos of the destruction and keep lists of items destroyed. Receipts should be kept for possible reimbursement. Residents don't need to wait for the inspection to begin cleaning up, and FEMA provides information on how to safely clean a flood-damaged home.
Disaster applicants will receive confirmation and follow-up information in the mail and in most cases inspectors will contact applicants within two weeks to schedule the application review/inspection. Applicants can ask questions or check on their application by calling the FEMA Helpline, at 1-800-525-0321.
"The inspection process in North Carolina has been slowed somewhat by the inaccessibility of some areas that remained flooded and the large, geographically widespread area," said Larry Zensinger, FEMA's head of Human Services. "But we have nearly 500 inspectors in the field working as quickly as possible to get to all those affected by the flooding."
Inspectors are contractors working for FEMA. They are specially trained, with construction and/or appraisal expertise. They will carry badges to identify themselves. The inspection, which is free, generally takes about 30 or 40 minutes and includes review of both structure and contents. The inspector does not make an eligibility determination at that time, but electronically submits the report to FEMA for processing.
What assistance can residents expect? Residents may be eligible for the minimal repair program to make minor repairs to their homes. Residents with homes that require major repairs or which cannot be repaired may be eligible for other disaster housing assistance from FEMA, which can pay for 18 months of rental expenses. Individual and family grants are also available to help with serious needs not covered by insurance or met by charitable organizations. Once the inspector's report is filed, checks can be processed as quickly as two days although it may take as many as five for more complicated applications.
FEMA disaster assistance checks are mailed or directly deposited in resident's ba...