CHARLESTON, W. Va. — It has been just over two months since President Obama issued a major disaster declaration authorizing federal assistance for survivors of severe storms and flooding that hit southeastern West Virginia on June 22-29, 2016. The declaration, signed by the president on June 25, provides for assistance to individuals in these 12 counties: Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers, and Webster.
The deadline to register for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is Wednesday, Sept. 7, but already the agency has approved nearly $40 million in grants to survivors to help them through their recovery. Disaster assistance for individuals may include grants to help homeowners and renters with temporary housing, essential home repairs, personal property replacement, and disaster-related needs.
However, not all survivors qualify for FEMA assistance; others qualify for some aid, but for less than they need. Where can these survivors turn for help? Whom can they call? Where can they go?
It may surprise you to know that FEMA is not the only government agency that can assist you in a disaster. Many other state and federal agencies offer services that may be of help to you.
The good news is that finding and getting help from a federal or state government agency is easier than you might think.
You can get online access to scores of free programs, grants and services available to West Virginia survivors and their families. (No login or personal information required.) Working both independently and in cooperation with FEMA, nearly two dozen cabinet departments and agencies – in state and federal government – offer assistance.
Visit www.disasterassistance.gov/find-assistance , where you will be asked to answer nine simple questions about your living situation and the kind of help you need. One more click and you will be taken to a personalized list of agencies and programs specific to your needs.
Among the government entities that may be of help to you, if FEMA cannot meet all your needs, are these:
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
One of FEMA’s federal partners in disaster recovery, the SBA, offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and renters, as well as businesses of all sizes. SBA disaster loans may cover repairs, rebuilding and the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged real estate and personal property.
You must first register with FEMA (before the Sept. 7 deadline) to receive an SBA disaster loan application. If you do not qualify for an SBA loan, as a homeowner or renter, you still may be eligible for assistance from FEMA. You may register with FEMA by phone (voice, 711 or relay service) at 800-621-3362 (TTY users call 800-462-7585) or online at DisasterAssistance.gov .
If your SBA loan application is approved, you may be eligible to borrow additional funds to cover the cost of improvements that will protect your property against future damage. Examples include elevating utilities, water heaters and furnaces, and installing retaining walls and sump pumps. Applicants may be eligible for an SBA loan increase, for mitigation purposes, of up to 20 percent of their physical damages.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Low-income survivors living in rural areas of West Virginia may be eligible for one of these USDA programs: rural housing loans, rural housing repair loans and grants, or rural rental housing.
Rural housing loans offer a subsidy to help reduce your mortgage payments for a short time to get you through your recovery. Your family income determines the amount of the subsidy. You may use the loan to help buy, build, repair, improve, or relocate your primary home. You may also use funds to buy and prepare sites, including water and sewer.
Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants may be used to repair, improve, or modernize your home, or remove health and safety hazards. The program’s loans are available only to individuals over 62 years of age.
Rural rental housing and cooperative housing assistance is available in nearly every county in West Virginia. You can get listings of participating housing projects in the state by visiting http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/WV .
To qualify for any of these programs, you must live in a rural area and be considered low-income or very low income. For more information about these and other USDA programs, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wv .
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Section 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims helps survivors get a mortgage to buy a new home or rebuild their damaged one. Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance gives homebuyers and owners two options:
Buy or refinance a house and its rehabilitation costs with a single mortgage, or
Finance the rehabilitation of their existing home.
Money may be used for rehabilitation work ranging from minor repairs to total reconstruction.
To qualify for Section 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims, you must:
- Own a one-family home damaged or destroyed during the June 22-29 storms, and
- Live in one of the counties qualified in the presidential declaration of June 25.
Section 203(k)-insured loans can finance:
To qualify for Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance, you must:
To learn more, visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src= . To apply, view http://www.hud.gov/ll/code/getllst.cfm? to find an approved lender near you.
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Do not let a disaster come between you and your money.
If you get federal benefit payments by paper check, you can switch to direct deposit so your money is directly deposited into a checking or savings account on payment day each month. Direct deposit removes the risk of a delayed payment due to a disaster event. You may choose from two electronic payment options:
Direct Deposit - Your monthly payments are deposited into your checking or savings account. Learn more about direct deposit online at www.godirect.gov.
Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® - A prepaid debit card you can use to make retail purchases, pay bills, and get cash back. Your government payments are loaded onto you card each month. It is a no- or low-cost alternative to paper checks. For more information on Direct Express, visit https://fiscal.treasury.gov/GoDirect .
Disaster deductions, faster refunds and additional time to file your tax return are among special tax law provisions that may be available to you to help you recover financially from the June 22-29 storms and flooding. Depending on the circumstances, the IRS may grant additional time to file returns and pay taxes.
Both individuals and businesses in the 12 designated counties can get a faster refund by claiming losses related to the disaster on the tax return for the previous year, usually by filing an amended return. To find out if you qualify for this program and to learn how to use it, visit https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs and type “i4684” in the search box.
Redeem savings bonds early – before the end of the 12-month holding period. If you live in one of the 12 designated counties in West Virginia, you may be able to do this. You may also be able to get faster replacement of any paper bonds lost or destroyed in a disaster. For more about this program, visit www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/redeem_disaster.htm .
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA)
The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline that offers year-round disaster crisis counseling. If you feel distressed because of the June storms and flooding, you can use this
free service. It is toll-free, multilingual, crisis support, and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Helpline staff provides counseling and support, and can help you learn how to cope with common stress reactions. They can also provide information and referrals to local resources for follow-up care.
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with the disaster, you are not alone; you can call the helpline at 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
To learn more, visit the SAMHSA website.
WorkForce West Virginia
Did the storms and flooding put you out of work? Are you looking for a job? Are you eligible for unemployment compensation? You may want to visit http://workforcewv.org .
WorkForce West Virginia is a state agency that oversees the state unemployment compensation
program and is a one-stop center for work force resources, including job opportunities and training. All its services are free and available at 13 comprehensive career centers throughout the state. (Click here for locations and hours.) In addition, WorkForce West Virginia has the state’s largest online database of job openings.
RISE West Virginia
Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin created RISE West Virginia in response to economic needs in the small business community resulting from the June storms and floods. RISE West Virginia is a state-operated, public-private mini-grant program providing assistance to small businesses that were operational before the flooding and are working to reopen while struggling with existing debt and limited capital. For more information about RISE West Virginia, visit http://wvflood.com .
More resources available to West Virginians who need help:
West Virginians seeking information about disaster-related services and unmet needs, as well as volunteering and donating, should visit the state’s Help for West Virginia Disaster website http://wvflood.com. West Virginians who wish to help with flood response and recovery may sign up with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) at www.volunteerwv.org or wvvoad.org.
Contact West Virginia 211 ( for help finding food, childcare, crisis counseling, and many other resources available in your community. If you or someone you know is struggling with post-disaster stress, you are not alone. Help is as near as your phone. Call the Help for West Virginia Helpline at 844-435-7498. Also, you can contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
Survivors with questions regarding FEMA registration or who have not yet registered for assistance should call the FEMA Helpline (voice, 711 or relay service) at 800-621-3362. (TTY users should call 800-462-7585) or visit DisasterAssistance.gov . The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.
West Virginia homeowners and renters who have registered for disaster assistance with FEMA are encouraged by recovery officials to “stay in touch.” If survivors change their address or phone numbers they should update that information with FEMA. Missing or erroneous information could result in delays getting a home inspection or in receiving assistance.
Additional information on West Virginia’s disaster recovery can be found by visiting fema.gov/disaster/4273, twitter.com/femaregion3, twitter.com/FEMA, facebook.com/FEMA, fema.gov/blog and the flood information pages at http://wvflood.com/Pages/default.aspx .