RALEIGH, N.C. -- Thousands of North Carolina's hurricane victims are awaiting a vote by local officials that will determine whether they will get help in recovering from their losses.
Officials in some 30 flood-damaged communities in the disaster area are currently considering whether to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which would make federal and state disaster assistance as well as flood insurance available to their residents.
The communities have until March to decide whether to come into the program but residents are facing a Dec. 14 deadline for registering for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The registration number is 1-800-462-9029, for the speech and hearing impaired 1-800-462-7585.
Residents who sought assistance but had their applications denied because their communities are not in the flood program remain in the database and will be reinstated and notified when a community enrolls. Local governing bodies are sometimes reluctant to join because NFIP imposes restrictions on floodplain development.
"If there are people who have not registered because they believed they were ineligible, they should waste no time signing up before the 14th," said Paul Fay, FEMA's head of human services in the recovery. "FEMA will be ready to help them when their communities enroll."
There are major downsides to nonparticipation on top of the ineligibility of residents for most types of assistance following a presidential disaster declaration. In addition, flood insurance becomes unavailable to the entire community and no federally backed construction loans or mortgages can be issued.
Twenty-one of these communities are classified in flood hazard zones and must either join by the March deadline or waive help in recovering from Hurricanes Floyd and Irene. Currently, only a month of emergency rental assistance is available to residents of these communities in a declared disaster.
The others are eligible for the full range of assistance this time only because they are newly incorporated or not yet classified as being in a flood hazard zone. But failure to join NFIP after receiving assistance will render them ineligible in a future flood disaster.
Two communities - Elm City in Wilson County and Hookerton in Greene County - have joined the NFIP since Hurricane Floyd, making their residents eligible for the full array of state and federal assistance programs. Currently, 405 North Carolina communities participate. Of the nonparticipating communities, 40 are located within the disaster area.