The federal government has approved more than $21 million in loans for Florida’s Hurricane Sally victims and another almost $18.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.
Both are a part of the individual assistance response for homeowners and renters, which are still available to residents. The loans and grants are meant to pay for storm damage not covered by insurance.
FEMA provides short-term grants to make sure people have safe housing if they’re without other help. Then, the Small Business Administration will help with longer-term recovery for homeowners and renters with low-interest loans straight from the U.S. Treasury before sending anyone denied for loans back to FEMA.
One resident who is the process of finding aid is Ginger Coop, who filled out a loan application Tuesday afternoon, which was denied for a lack of ability to pay it off.
She needs a new roof on her Scenic Heights area home after a tree fell into it. The home also saw minor flood damage, but Coop doesn’t have homeowners insurance.
Coop first filled out a FEMA application, which offered her $3,000 in assistance, but the roof alone was quoted as an $8,000 repair. Now she’s being sent back to FEMA to prove she needs more help.
“Not nearly enough (to pay it off),” said Coop, who added that mold is growing in the insulation in the roof. “I guess I’ll go to the bank (if denied) and see if they’ll lend me some money. I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to get a roof put on my house. It’s leaking terrible.”
The deadline for FEMA aid applications is Dec. 1, said Rossyveth Rey-Berrios, public information officer for the agency. She said a common misconception is that people who received Hurricane Michael assistance can apply again for Hurricane Sally.
“The deadline is Dec. 1 and in the blink of an eye, 30 days is gone,” Rey-Berrios said. “You need to get ready for the cold in December and a lot of rain is coming up, so you need to get your home resealed and covered and everything happens now.”
Homeowners and renters who first go to FEMA to ask for assistance often are referred to the SBA to apply for a loan. Julie Garrett, public affairs specialist for the SBA, said some people do not apply because they think the loans are only for small businesses.
She said the SBA already was administering loans to small businesses when the federal government began disaster response work so that responsibility was assigned to the SBA.
If a homeowner or renter is denied a loan with the SBA, they then are referred back to FEMA to apply for additional assistance.
“It can be confusing to people because they’re like ‘I’m not a business. Why do you want me to go to SBA?,'” Garrett said. “If they don’t come to us when FEMA tells them to, then we can’t push them back to FEMA, so they kind of stop going through the FEMA process at that point.”
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Loan applicants can choose not to accept the loan, but the offer is good for six months if they change their minds or find more damage.
Homeowners can borrow up to $200,000 to repair their homes. The loans also can cover such outdoor items as decks, fencing, sheds and garages as well as debris removal, which is often different from homeowners insurance, Garrett said.
For personal property of homeowners and renters, they can borrow up to $40,000, which includes vehicles.
The loans can be for up to 30 years and are determined based on the applicant’s financial condition. The lowest interest rate is 1.188% to a high of 2.375%.
Residents can apply online at SBA.gov/disaster or in-person at the East Pensacola Heights Clubhouse at 3208 E. Gonzalez St. That location will close at 5 p.m. Friday and not reopen until Nov. 5, because it’s used as a polling place.
Madison Arnold can be reached at [email protected] and 850-435-8522.
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