ATLANTA, Ga. -- If it makes your house safe, if it makes your house livable, if it makes your house comply with local building codes, you can use your federal disaster assistance payment to pay for it.
But even the maximum grant payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not cover the complete cost of repairing or rebuilding your home. That is why loans of up to $200,000 for homeowners are available from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
The maximum amount of FEMA grant assistance that can be made available to disaster survivors of Georgia flooding for home repairs, rental assistance and other disaster-related losses is $30,300. However, the amount of assistance that individuals will receive for their households will vary, based on their disaster-related needs.
Grants for repairs can be used to reduce the risk of losses from future flooding if such construction is required by local building codes. But, practically speaking, grants are unlikely to cover the cost of mitigation measures such as elevating a building.
That is why applying for an SBA loan can be a real advantage to those considering how to build better and smarter. The amount of an SBA loan can be increased up to 20 percent of the verified damage to pay for reconstruction that reduces the risk of future flood losses. Building owners with flood insurance may also qualify for additional money for mitigation.
Information on safe ways to rebuild is available at all Disaster Recovery Centers, and by going on FEMA's Web site at www.fema.gov and clicking on "Recover & Rebuild" at the top of the home page.
Those recovering from the floods have a chance to rebuild more safely, and it is important to make the best possible use of disaster assistance payments, said state and federal emergency officials.
FEMA paid out more than $35 million through October 5 to flood survivors across 17 Georgia counties: Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker.
Such an influx of money into a community attracts con artists so anyone planning home repairs should be alert.
"Experience tells disaster managers that the arrival of a large check is a time when people are particularly vulnerable to fraud and predators are quick to pounce on people overwhelmed by the issues of recovery," said Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Charley English.
English said the best way to handle such large sums of money is by having FEMA deposit the payment directly into an applicant's bank account. But if that is not possible, checks from FEMA should be deposited as soon as they arrive in the mail. Recipients should never deal with strangers offering check-cashing or deposit services.
"This financial assistance is intended to help survivors get back in their homes and recover from disaster losses," said Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech. "Those who get FEMA grants should avoid the temptation to pay household bills with the money or make purchases unrelated to needs created by the disaster."
Before starting any repairs or reconstruction, check with local building officials to determine what permits and inspections may be required. Obtaining building permits is especially important for homes or businesses in a floodplain.
The permit process ensures that homeowners are protected from unsafe building practices and illegal modifications that could cause injury, loss in property value, damage to the local environment or conflict with local codes and regulations. Permits required by law may keep homeowners from unpleasant surprises when buying insurance, filing a claim or selling the property in the future.
Applicants with questions regarding use of disaster aid should call FEMA's Help Desk at 800-621-FEMA (3362)...