Posted on: 07.7.2018 at 07:00 a.m.
By Allen Turner
A disaster applications acceptance center opened at the Fair Bluff Baptist Church last week to become the seventh such center in the state. It was done in an effort to “cast a wide net” to make sure that everyone who might possibly be eligible for assistance applies, according to a public information officer for N.C. Emergency Management.
“This renewed push is to make sure that everybody who might possibly be eligible for assistance submits an application,” said Greg Thomas. “Although they might not be qualified for something, we want to make certain that if there is anything for which they’re possibly qualified, we want to get them signed up.”
$4.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was announced last week for Columbus County, with $4.6 million in Fair Bluff alone, to assist homeowners impacted by flooding following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. In Fair Bluff, where $4,622,134 in assistance has been announced, 20 houses will be totally reconstructed and 17 will be elevated. In Whiteville, $188,254 was released for the elevation of one property and the acquisition, or buy-out, of another.
Another 20 Fair Bluff homeowners have not gotten answers on their applications to have their properties bought out by the government.
The $400 million statewide for which N.C. Emergency Management is now accepting applications at the seven centers, including the one in Fair Bluff, is from a different pool of money than the funds coming from the $4.8 million already announced for the county.
Thomas said that people who have been approved for money announced last week cannot apply for additional assistance but he was unsure whether those who have previously applied but not gotten an answer can submit additional applications at the newly-opened center. However, he said that they should apply to make sure all possible avenues of assistance are covered.
Handouts available at the Fair Bluff center say that funds are available to reimburse homeowners for finished repairs, even if they already have fixed their homes, to repair minor to moderate damages caused by the storm, to rebuild or reconstruct heavily-damaged homes, to fix minor to moderate damages to mobile homes, to replace mobile homes that were destroyed, or to pay fair market value to buy out homes not included in other buyout programs.
The first step in seeking assistance is to schedule an appointment, which must be done by telephone before going to the application center. Interested persons should call 2-1-1 to schedule a time to come in and complete an application. Reviews will then be conducted to determine their eligibility or whether there’s a duplication of benefits, after which inspection and environmental reviews will take place. After all that has occurred, grant amounts for successful applicants will be determined, a contractor will be selected and work will begin.
The applications center in Fair Bluff is operating in the Educational Building at Fair Bluff Baptist Church (not the Christian Life Center, as was incorrectly reported previously). The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
People who live in any of the 22 counties eligible for CDBG-DR funds may make an appointment to apply at any center. In addition to Columbus, the counties of Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Carteret, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Robeson, Tyrell, Wayne and Wilson are eligible. Besides Fair Bluff, application centers are located in Lumberton, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Kinston, Tarboro and Windsor.