With an estimated 7,000 houses damaged or destroyed in Craven County by Hurricane Florence, attention has shifted from surviving the hurricane’s wind, rain, and flooding, to housing people displaced by the catastrophic storm.
Jerry Haney, Area 3 division supervisor for FEMA Region 4, which includes Craven County, said housing is the biggest issue FEMA is focusing on right now.
“There is just not rental inventory here for the number of houses that were lost,” Haney told the New Bern Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.
Haney said Gov. Roy Cooper was being briefed on the situation on Wednesday, and FEMA officials toured the hurricane-ravaged portions of New Bern on Tuesday.
More information should be coming out soon on what steps county, state and federal agencies will take to address the housing situation.
However, Haney said it is critical that people affected by Hurricane Florence apply for FEMA assistance. That process can be done online, however, FEMA opened a Disaster Recovery Center in New Bern this week.
Anyone who lives in Craven County can apply for the assistance, Haney said. A-n-y-o-n-e. He urged, begged, pleaded for people to apply.
“Registration numbers are kind of low right now. We think they should be higher,” he said.
Alderman Barbara Best pointed out the grave situation that many people face.
“Over in the Woodrow area, the homes are no longer there. … Will FEMA help those families rebuild?”
“This gets to the important part of registration,” Haney said. “People must register. … If you don’t register, we have zero chance of being able to tell you yes.”
And what if you are denied?
“You can appeal,” he said. Many times requests are denied because there is a problem with the application that can be easily addressed.
Also available is assistance from the Small Business Administration, or SBA.
“The majority of disaster assistance during federally declared disaster goes to homeowners and renters,” an SBA official told the Board of Aldermen.
SBA offers low interest loans (2 percent for individuals, 2.5 percent for non-profits, 3.6 percent for businesses).
Renters and property owners can get up to $40,000 for personal property loss, and homeowners can get $200,000 for real estate damage.
Between FEMA, SBA and insurance, “the three of us together, that seems to be able to bring most folks back to where they need to be,” the official said.
SBA has set up a field office at Centenary United Methodist Church at Middle and New streets in New Bern.