National

Hurricane Matthew has left one-third of South Carolina in a state of federal disaster

A National Guard high-water vehicle drives through Nichols, S.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. About 150 people were rescued by boats from flooding in the riverside village of Nichols on Monday.
A National Guard high-water vehicle drives through Nichols, S.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. About 150 people were rescued by boats from flooding in the riverside village of Nichols on Monday. AP

More than a third of South Carolina counties are eligible for federal disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, according to a presidential amendment to disaster declaration for the storm.

In a release Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) listed the 15 counties being added to two named over the weekend in which flood victims, (homeowners, business owners, renters and households) can get help to start rebuilding their lives. The assistance can help with everything from paying rent to dental and childcare costs from problems associated with the hurricane.

Victor Inge, a federal relief worker who was on the ground as the storm surged through the region, said two South Carolina counties, Marion and Orangeburg, had been declared eligible for federal assistance on Oct. 14. Another 15 counties were added Monday, when President Barrack Obama signed an amendment to the disaster declaration.

“Take a street with a lot of homes, each one having had eight feet of water,” he said. “Each house might have similar problems, but each home will have different needs. It’s a very individual process, though on a large scale.”

Inge said homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered storm and flood damage have 60 days to file for assistance in rebuilding their lives. He added that the quicker people file, however, the quicker they can be helped.

“We’ve got teams on the ground to work on this,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone who needs help can get help. But it’s always good to file early.”

The counties listed on the disaster amendment: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Jasper, Lee, Sumter, and Williamsburg.

The FEMA news release states: “Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for rent, home repairs to primary residences, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental, childcare and funeral expenses caused by the disaster.”

The federal money available includes grants for debris removal, as well.

FEMA lists the ways for storm survivors in those counties to apply for assistance: Those with internet access can go to DisasterAssistance.gov, there’s a phone app at fema.gov/mobile-app, those with phone access can call 800-621-3362, and those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585.

The phones are open 16 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, and the release notes that multilingual operators are available.

Inge said federal aid will not duplicate what private insurance covers, but that private property owners with private insurance might be eligible for U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

“We’re urging people to apply for the Small Business Administration loans,” he said. “They’re set up to take and process these sorts of loans. Even if people don’t want to accept the loans, it can be helpful to give us an idea of what are an individual’s needs.”

The FEMA release states: “(SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property.”

The release adds that SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center can be reached at 800-659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s website at SBA.gov/disaster Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

Matthew Schofield: @mattschodcnews

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