THOMASVILLE, Ga. -- Providing housing for tornado victims in four southwestern Georgia counties remains a top priority said officials overseeing the state-federal disaster recovery effort.
"We need to know that everyone is in safe, sanitary and secure housing," said Tom Davies, federal coordinating officer for recovery operations. "We can't put people back on their feet until we help them get a roof over their heads."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster-housing program provides assistance to disaster applicants in Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell, and Tift counties declared eligible for federal aid. These forms of assistance include:
- Rental Assistance is available for homeowners or renters whose homes were destroyed or substantially damaged. Initial assistance is provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least two months for renters. Assistance after the initial period may be extended upon review of individual applicant requirements. If adequate rental resources are not available, applicants may be considered for the state managed travel trailer program.
- Grants for limited home repairs are available to homeowners for up to $10,000 in emergency repairs not covered by insurance to make a residence habitable until more extensive repairs can be made. Examples of emergency work include essential repairs to electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems, as well as general carpentry to make a home safe and habitable.
- Transient Accommodation reimbursements for short term lodging expenses such as hotel rooms because of damage to homes or officially imposed prohibitions against returning to your home due to disaster conditions.
- Mortgage and Rental Assistance for residents in the designated counties facing mortgage foreclosure or eviction as a result of financial hardship caused by the tornadoes. To be eligible, individuals must be unable to pay their mortgage or rent because they lost income in the disaster and must provide written notification that foreclosure or eviction is imminent.
Davies emphasized that the grants are not intended to restore a home to its pre-disaster condition and cannot be used for cosmetic repairs, remodeling, or repairs covered by insurance. "To qualify for a limited home repair grant, the applicant must be an owner-occupant and the home must be a primary residence," he explained.
Gary McConnell, director of Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), said that some immediate housing needs were being met through the state-managed travel trailer program. "People want to stay close to home, even if that home no longer exists," said McConnell. By providing travel trailers in the most devastated areas the state is trying to let people rebuild their lives in familiar surroundings, explained McConnell. Both officials noted that residents relocating to travel trailers may be eligible for further aid and they urged all tornado victims to register for assistance as soon as possible.
Individuals seeking assistance are encouraged to call the Teleregistration number 1-800-462-9029 to register to determine if they are eligible under any of the state and federal disaster relief programs. The toll-free number will operate from 8a.m. to 6p.m (ET), Sunday through Saturday. Individuals with hearing or speech impairments who use special keyboard equipment (TTY) should call 1-800-462-7585.