Disaster Recovery Centers
All the Disaster Recovery Centers in South Carolina have closed. The closure of the Disaster Recovery Centers marks a major milestone in the disaster recovery process.The Centers close when traffic slows at the locations.
Survivors whose homes or businesses were affected by Hurricane Florence can get updates about their applications, learn about the appeals process or check the status of their claim the following ways:
- Call the Disaster Assistance Helpline at 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish);
- Visit DisasterAssistance.gov to log into their account.
Understanding Your FEMA Letter: Frequently Asked Questions
Why did I get a letter from FEMA?
If you applied for assistance from FEMA because you sustained damage from Hurricane Florence, you will receive a letter from FEMA in the mail or via email. The letter will explain the status of your application and how to respond. It is important to read the letter carefully. Your letter will include the amount of any assistance FEMA may provide to you and information on the appropriate use of disaster assistance funds.
Why did FEMA say I wasn’t eligible?
You may need to submit additional information for FEMA to continue to process your application. Examples of missing documentation may include:
- Proof of insurance coverage
- Settlement of insurance claims
- Proof of identity
- Proof of occupancy
- Proof of ownership
- Proof that the damaged property was your primary residence at the time of the disaster.
If you have questions about the letter, you may go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov; call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362 (voice, 711 or VRS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY); or visit a disaster recovery center. To find center locations and hours, go online to www.fema.gov/DRC or download the FEMA mobile app. In-person American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are available by request by calling or texting 202-655-8824. To access a video in American Sign Language, go online to www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/172199.
What does the letter mean when it says “Home Is Safe to Occupy?”
To determine if you are eligible for federal disaster assistance, a FEMA inspection determines whether your home is safe, sanitary and functional. FEMA regulations define safe as secure from disaster-related hazards or threats to occupants; sanitary as free of disaster-related health hazards; and functional as an item or home capable of being used for its intended purpose.
The FEMA inspection determines whether the repair is necessary to ensure the safety or health of the occupant or to make the home functional. FEMA considers the following factors when determining whether assistance will be provided:
- The exterior is structurally sound, including the doors, roof and windows.
- The electricity, gas, heat, plumbing and sewer and septic systems function properly.
- The interior’s habitable areas are structurally sound, including the ceiling and floors.
- The home is capable of operating for its intended purpose.
- There is safe access to and from the home.
Disaster-caused damage may exist while the habitability of the home may not be affected.
Why did my neighbor get more grant money for repairs than I did?
Each case is unique. There are several factors involved, including insurance status and the extent and type of damage found during the home inspection.
I can’t rebuild my house with the money FEMA is offering me.
FEMA assistance is not the same as insurance. FEMA assistance only provides funds for basic work to make a home habitable, including toilets, a roof, critical utilities, windows and doors.
What happens if I disagree with FEMA’s decision?
You may appeal FEMA’s decision. For example, if you feel the amount or type of assistance is incorrect, you may submit an appeal letter and any documents needed to support your claim, such as a contractor’s estimate for home repairs.
FEMA cannot duplicate assistance provided to you by another source, such as insurance settlements or another program. However, if you are underinsured you may receive further assistance for unmet needs after insurance claims have been settled by submitting insurance settlement or denial documents to FEMA.
How can I appeal?
You must file your appeal in writing to FEMA. In a signed and dated letter, you must explain the reason(s) for your appeal. Your appeal letter should also include:
- Your full name
- Disaster number
- Address of the pre-disaster primary residence
- Your current phone number and address
- Your FEMA registration number on all documents
If someone other than you or a co-applicant is writing your letter, they must sign the appeal letter, and you must provide FEMA with a signed statement authorizing that person to act on your behalf.
Your letter must be postmarked within 60 days of the date on your determination letter. Appeal letters and supporting documents may be submitted to FEMA by fax or mail, in person at a disaster recovery center, or online if you have a FEMA online account. To set up a FEMA online account, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov, click on “Check Your Application and Log In” and follow the directions.
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055
SBA Disaster Assistance Loans Key to Continuing Recovery Process
Disaster survivors in South Carolina applying for assistance with FEMA who are referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are encouraged to submit the application for a low-interest disaster loan. The deadline for applying for an SBA loan was December 5, 2018.
Next to insurance, an SBA low-interest disaster loan is the primary source of funds for real estate property repairs and for replacing contents destroyed as related to Hurricane Florence.
- Survivors who register with FEMA may be referred to the SBA. Those referred to the SBA should complete a loan application as soon as possible as this will ensure all eligible assistance under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program is provided.
- Homeowners and renters who submit an SBA application and are not approved for a loan may be considered for certain other FEMA assistance for disaster-caused car repairs, clothing loss, essential household items and other expenses.
- Survivors don’t have to accept the loan.
- Survivors can submit SBA disaster loan applications in several ways: online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/; at any Disaster Recovery Center; or any SBA Business Recovery Centers (BRC); or by mail.
- SBA Business Recovery Centers (BRCs) help businesses get back on their feet from damage they sustained during the storms. The BRCs are a resource where businesses can meet face-to-face with SBA representatives. Survivors may locate open BRCs near them by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, (Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do not wait for an insurance settlement before submitting an SBA loan application. The loan balance will be reduced by any insurance settlement. SBA loans may be available for losses not covered by insurance or other sources.
- FEMA’s Housing Assistance and assistance for medical, dental, funeral and burial expenses, available under the Other Needs Assistance Provision, do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA for a possible referral for further assistance consideration for personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
- Homeowners may be eligible for SBA home disaster loans up to $200,000 for primary residence structural repairs or rebuilding.
- An SBA loan may help fund repair of a flooded basement that FEMA does not cover. The assistance FEMA provides homeowners to repair flood-damaged real property in basements is limited to items that support the overall function of the home (e.g., furnace, water heater or pump).
- SBA may be able to help homeowners and renters with up to $40,000 to replace important personal items, including automobiles damaged or destroyed in the disaster.
- SBA also can help businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations with up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and other business assets. Eligible small businesses and nonprofits can apply for economic injury disaster loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. The deadline for applying for a physical property damage loan is Nov. 20, 2018. The deadline for applying for an economic injury disaster loan is June 21, 2019.
- Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damage, as verified by the SBA, for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Resources
FEMA’S NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM PROVIDES POLICYHOLDERS WITH NEXT STEPS
(Washington, D.C., DAY, MONTH DATE, 2018) – Characterized as one of the worst flooding events in the Carolinas, Hurricane Florence has caused catastrophic flood damage to homes across the two states.
With thousands of residents already home or heading there soon, and thousands still unable to safely return to theirs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) wants to ensure policyholders have the information and resources available to begin their recovery process.
Paul Huang, Assistant Administrator for the Federal Insurance Directorate, FEMA, has information and tips on how to file a flood insurance claim, begin the cleanup process, and file for disaster assistance. This link goes to the FEMA Media Library at: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/audio/171286
Extended grace period for some flood insurance policyholders in areas affected by Hurricane Florence
People who have flood insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program normally have 30 days from their policy expiration date to pay to renew their policy and ensure continuous coverage. However, in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Florence, FEMA’s NFIP has extended the renewal grace period from 30 days to 90 days for policyholders impacted by the flooding.
NFIP policyholders who meet all of the conditions below have up to 90 days from their policy expiration date to pay to renew their flood insurance policy:
- The flood-insured property is in a county designated under the Presidential Disaster Declarations for Individual Assistance in South Carolina; AND
- The NFIP policy has an expiration date between Aug. 10, 2018, and Oct. 10, 2018; AND
- The policyholder has not renewed their flood insurance policy.
If a policy expires on or after October 10, 2018, the standard 30-day renewal grace period will go into effect. The NFIP cannot cover any flood claims for losses that occurred after the policy expiration date.
For more information about renewing flood insurance policies, policyholders can contact their insurance carriers or call the NFIP Call Center at 1-800-427-4661.
What To Expect After Registering For Assistance
After registering for disaster assistance, a survivor may be contacted by a housing inspector to schedule an inspection. The inspection generally takes about 20-40 minutes. The inspector will want to see the damaged areas of the home and any damaged furniture and personal property. There is no fee for the inspection.
Housing inspectors always wear a FEMA badge and will not ask you for your unique 9-digit registration number. They will already have it on file.
If the home was found to be inaccessible at the time of inspection, the applicant is required to let FEMA know when the home is accessible and request a new inspection. To update the status of an uninhabitable dwelling, applicants should call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362.
Someone 18 years of age or older must be present during the inspection. The inspector will also ask to see:
- Photo identification;
- Proof of ownership/occupancy of damaged residence (tax bill, mortgage payment book, rental agreement or utility bill);
- Insurance documents (homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and/or an auto insurance policy summary);
- List of people living in the residence at the time of disaster; and
- All disaster-related damages to both real and personal property.
Once the inspection process is complete, FEMA will review the case and send a letter to the applicant outlining a decision.
If an applicant is eligible for FEMA assistance, FEMA will send funds via check by mail or direct deposit into the survivor’s bank account. If a survivor receives money for rental assistance, the survivor must keep documentation and receipts of payments made and have a written landlord/tenant agreement for the time frame for which assistance is provided.
If an applicant is not eligible for FEMA assistance, FEMA will send a letter explaining why the applicant was determined ineligible. The applicant should read this letter carefully. Many times ineligibility is due to FEMA not having important information, such as an insurance settlement letter, proof of ownership or proof of occupancy. Applicants have 60 days to appeal a FEMA decision. The appeal process is detailed in the letter.
How to Help
When disaster strikes, every little bit helps. To make the most of your contributions, please follow our guidelines to learn the most effective and safest ways to donate cash, goods, or time following a disaster.
- Cash is best. Financial contributions to recognized disaster relief organizations are the fastest, most flexible, and most effective method of donating. Organizations on the ground know what items and quantities are needed, often buy in bulk with discounts and, if possible, purchase through area businesses which supports economic recovery.
- Confirm donations needed. Critical needs change rapidly – confirm needed items BEFORE collecting; pack and label carefully; confirm delivery locations; arrange transportation. Unsolicited goods NOT needed burden local organizations’ ability to meet survivors’ confirmed needs, drawing away valuable volunteer labor, transportation, and warehouse space.
- Connect to volunteer. Never Self Deploy During a Disaster. Trusted organizations operating in the affected area know where volunteers are needed, and can ensure appropriate volunteer safety, training, and housing.
For more information on how you can support survivors in South Carolina, visit: https://www.scemd.org/recover/volunteer-and-donate/.
- Stay alert. Flooding is threatening several roads, and closures are likely to increase as rivers continue rising. In some counties it still isn’t safe to return home.
- Keep out of the water. Flood water can contain dangerous debris, downed power lines, and germs. Do not attempt to walk, swim, wade or drive through flood waters.
- Never drive through floodwaters; it only takes 2 feet of swiftly moving water to sweep away a full-size vehicle. Turn around and don't drown.
- Avoid exposure to mold or bacteria. Mold and bacteria growth after flood waters recede can be hazarddous to your health.
- Make sure food is safe to eat.
- Never taste food to determine if it's safe.
- Food may have spoiled if refrigeration was lost during power outage.
- Throw away any food that touched flood water.
- Extreme heat and humidity can be dangerous. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and take frequent rest breaks.
- Do not use GPS to plan your route, as it may route you into flooded areas
Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures
Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures
After a natural disaster important documents, family heirlooms, photos and other keepsakes can often be be saved if you take prompt action.
Fact Sheets are available from The Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a partnership cosponsored by FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution, with steps you can take to save your past for the future. These Fact Sheets are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Visit the Heritage Emergency National Task Force resources page for more information.
Here are a few tips to help you salvage your family treasures.
Video: Smithsonian Experts Help Survivors Salvage Family Treasures
Video: Salvaging Photos
Video: Salvaging Photo Albums
Don’t Wait, Clean Up!
Do not wait for a flood insurance adjuster or FEMA home inspector to come to your home.
- Clean up debris as soon as possible.
- Take photos or videos of the outside and inside of the building, including damaged personal property, and label them by room before you remove anything.
- Photograph the make, model and serial number of appliances and electronics.
- Keep samples of carpet, flooring, wallpaper, drapes, etc.
- Separate damaged from undamaged personal property to show your insurance adjuster.
- After taking photos, immediately throw away flooded content items that pose a health risk, such as perishable food, clothing, cushions and pillows.
- Before starting any structural work, be sure to get a building permit from your local building authorities. If you have flood insurance, contact your flood insurance company to let them know what repairs you have planned.
- For free help with debris cleanup and removal from local relief agencies in South Carolina call the Crisis Cleanup hotline at 843-212-0552 or visit https://www.crisiscleanup.org/.
Trusted Information Sources
A rumor control page has been set up to dispel false information about Hurricane Florence.
- Download the FEMA mobile app (available in English and Spanish) to receive emergency alerts and find a shelter. Free and available on Apple and Android devices.
- Beware of post-storm donation scams. Research before you donate and only donate to reputable organizations.
- Anyone in South Carolina with questions related to Hurricane Florence should call the Public Information Phone System at 866-246-0133
- Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites to silicit contributions.
- The National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline is open at 866-720-5721. The line is staffed 24 hours a day. Or, email email@example.com.