LUMBERTON — There are multiple avenues to financial aid for those who suffered property damage and loss as a result of Hurricane Matthew, and Robeson County officials administering the programs want to make sure disaster victims take advantage.
On Monday local officials outlined what is available through the state and federally funded programs.
Dixon Ivey Jr., Robeson County’s director of Planning and Inspections, described three hazard mitigation grants being offered through the recovery section of North Carolina’s Division of Emergency Management. Ivey said $100 million has been allotted statewide.
The available grants are for property buyouts, to increase home elevations, and home reconstruction.
In the buyout program, the property owner is offered the appraised value of the property before Hurricane Matthew. If the owner accepts the offer, the owner receives the money, the home is demolished, and the property reverts back to the county. The property must then remain as green space, although in some cases it can be used for parks or other limited uses as approved by the state, Ivey said.
There are no eligibility limitations for the buyout, Ivey said. But no more than $276,000 will be offered in a single grant, and that includes the cost demolition.
The second grant provides for the elevation of homes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency standard of one foot above base flood elevation. To qualify for the grant, an individual must own and live in the house.
The maximum grant for elevation work is $175,000.
The third grant provides money for home reconstruction. The damaged structure can be torn down and rebuilt, or repaired using the money.
“But the work can’t exceed $150,000 and can only be used to construct a structure the same square footage as existed before the storm,” Ivey said.
The county plans to hold a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the conference room of the Department of Social Services building off N.C. 711 in Lumberton to explain the hazard mitigation grants in more detail, Ivey said. Representatives of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management are expected to attend.
At 8 a.m. on Feb. 21 the county will begin taking applications for the grants at the old DSS building on N.C. 711 in Lumberton, Ivey said. The applications will be taken in the upstairs conference room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24.
Residents of Lumberton and Red Springs should check with their municipal governments about their grant application process, Ivey said. Lumberton and Red Springs leaders administer their own zoning and planning rules and regulations.
“We will accept applications from Lumberton and Red Springs property owners, but they will not be our priority,” Ivey said.
Applications are being accepted for the Essential Single Family Rehabilitation/Disaster Recovery Program, which provides a maximum of $40,000 to assist rehabilitation efforts of owner-occupied property that suffered at least $5,000 of damage, said Adrian Lowery, who is administering the program for the Lumber River Council of Governments.
“The funding is available and we’re ready to look at applications now,” Lowery said. “There are some income eligibility requirements based on a sliding scale and the number of people occupying the property.”
Anyone wanting to apply for the program should call the Lumber River Council of Governments at 910-618-5533.
“Property owners funded through the program will be chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Lowery said.
No new walk-in applications will be accepted at the FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center in the old Kmart store on North Roberts Avenue, but case workers with FEMA, Robeson County DSS and the state Division of Emergency Management will be available by appointment at the center until the end of February to help people in FEMA’s temporary housing program who are seeking permanent housing, said Dawn Gavasci, who works with the Social Services Department.
“As long as there is a sustainable income, there is money available to pay a first-month deposit and utility connection,” she said.
Anyone with unoccupied rental property should contact the county about the possibility of the property being used to house some of the hundreds of families still without permanent homes, Gavasci said. The county’s disaster hotline number is 910-671-3513.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.