HC receives limited aid; FEMA sign-up continues in Bertie

Published 9:48 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

While one local county was notified earlier this week that FEMA will provide limited assistance, another is urging its citizens impacted by Hurricane Matthew to continue to register for federal aid.

Hertford County local government officials were informed Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has added them to the declaration for Public Assistance, categories A and B. These are emergency protective measures and debris removal.

It needs to be noted that FEMA’s Public Assistance program does not mean members of the general public. It is for disaster-related costs of local and state governments, certain non-profits and tribal organizations.

Due to the extent of damage from Hurricane Matthew, the general public in Bertie and Gates counties are qualified for FEMA’s Individual and Household Assistance program.

When asked what was the qualifying criteria for individual and household assistance, FEMA Public Information Officer Nate Custer told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that, “preliminary damage assessments look at extent of damage, the level of insurance coverage, and whether an area has recently had a disaster declaration for some other event. Also a factor is the extent of the population which is below the poverty level, and are local volunteer agencies and local governments capable of handling the impact.”

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said that Chris Smith, the county’s Emergency Management Director, is following up daily with state officials in an effort to get the county declared for individual and household assistance.

“That type of assistance is pending; we’re hoping it will come,” Williams said.

As far as the assistance approved for Hertford County local government, Custer said other than FEMA covering the costs incurred by the county for removal of debris caused by the storm, the eligible emergency protective measures are actions taken by a community before, during, and after a disaster to eliminate or reduce an immediate threat to life, public health or safety or significant damage to improved public or private property.

Custer offered examples of those actions, which include construction and removal of temporary roads and levees; demolition of unsafe structures that pose an immediate threat to the public; provision of temporary facilities for schools and other essential community services; placement of sand on a beach to protect improved property from waves and flooding; and paying overtime for placement of barriers on streets and highways to keep traffic out of high water.

Meanwhile, over in neighboring Bertie County, local government officials are urging its citizens who suffered hurricane damage to visit FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) located at the county’s Senior Center (103 West School Street in Windsor).

Financial assistance and other federally funded programs to help Bertie’s general public – to include homeowners and renters impacted by the storm – is offered through a face-to-face registration process at the DRC. Hours are 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. on today (Thursday) and Friday; 12 noon until 7 p.m. on Saturday; and Sunday from 12 noon until 5 p.m.

At a scheduled meeting on Monday night in Kelford, the Bertie Board of Commissioners encouraged county residents impacted by the storm in any way to visit the DRC.

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” Commissioner Ron Wesson said at Monday’s meeting, imploring Bertie residents that need assistance to sign-up with FEMA.

Wesson referenced a personal story involving damage to his mother’s home during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

“She registered for assistance with FEMA at that time, but due to her income as a retired school teacher she didn’t qualify,” he said. “But that didn’t stop her from trying. She wound up spending $12,000 of her own money to make the necessary repairs to her residence. A few years later she received a check for $8,500 from FEMA, who said they had some left-over funds from the assistance offered during Floyd.”

Commission Chairman John Trent also encouraged those with damage to file an application at the DRC.

“Assistance is also available for those who rent a residence,” Trent stressed. “Anyone with damage needs to file (with FEMA). If you had water in your house you need to file. If you had water under your house you need to file.”

At the meeting, Bertie Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper gave a brief update on damages in the county as well as the agencies, other than FEMA, who are working to help get local citizens back on their feet.

Cooper said 90-plus homes across the county were damaged.

“There are disaster recovery teams going door-to-door taking information and getting people registered, but some of that information is coming back (to FEMA) and is being denied (for federal assistance),” Cooper explained. “(Bertie) residents need to take that (denial) letter to the DRC and find out why they were denied. Don’t stop until you get an answer you’re willing to agree with.”

Cooper stressed that having FEMA in the county is, “a good thing as they give much assistance.”

He added that assistance is also coming from other resources.

“We have the Baptist Men on the ground; we have the Methodist group on the ground doing tear-outs,” Cooper said, referencing the process of removing water-damaged walls, insulation and other types of construction materials from damaged homes.

“On Monday, DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) from Children of Christ Ministries showed up; they are assisting those already here representing the Methodist and Baptist groups,” Cooper added.

Disaster donations of goods for county citizens are being funneled through the Heritage Leadership Academy in Windsor.

FEMA officials are encouraging those not able to immediately visit their local office in Windsor or do not have Internet availability that they can call, toll-free, 1-800-621-3362 and register.

As of Oct. 24, FEMA announced that 54,353 registrations for individual and household assistance had been received from across North Carolina due to damage from Hurricane Matthew. Statewide assistance approved by that same date totaled $43,847,442.77.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal