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Maneuvering FEMA, SBA storm-impact applications described at Dunbar High School town hall

Riley Hazel
Democracy Watch/WGCU
FEMA officials on stage discussing steps citizens affected by Hurricane Ian can take to receive financial assistance.

Representatives from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration hosted a town hall Thursday night to answer questions from applicants entering the financial assistance process.

The Dunbar Clergy partnered with FEMA and the SBA to review public and individual assistance programs, loan applications and flood insurance at Dunbar High School.

“We are your best advocate,” FEMA representative Samuel Harvey said. “We have over 1,000 employees visiting Florida. I know it doesn't always seem like it, but each and every one of us wants to get you the best.”

Applying for FEMA assistance is split into two groups: individual and public assistance. State, local, tribal and territorial governments and certain private nonprofit organizations in 26 designated counties listed on FEMA’s website are considered for public assistance and are eligible for the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. Public assistance is fully covered for the first 60 days after the natural disaster.

Households in the designated counties are to apply for financial and direct services under individual assistance. Eligible individuals who are uninsured or underinsured with expenses are able to look into FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program under individual assistance.

“If you’re not sure what to do, apply with FEMA,” Harvey said. “If you’ve applied and haven’t heard a response, the bottom line is if you're not sure what's going on, give us a call.”

Based on the information submitted, an individual may receive an application to apply for a small business loan.

“[Loans] aren't going to necessarily going to give you 1,000 percent support, but they will bring you back to your home in a safe, secure environment,” SBA specialist Terrell Perry said. “They will replace your personal property, your car and your livelihood.”

Businesses of all sizes located in designated disaster areas qualify for a small business loan. Private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters are encouraged to apply.

“I'm getting information for other people in the community who still don't have internet, and still don't have the ability to apply online.”
Kimberly Stone, session attendee

“Our house took on six inches of water and destroyed our wood floors,” Rad Sturgis said. “We're remediating and cutting out all the drywall.”

Sturgis is looking to his flood insurance for help and has no interest in taking out a loan, but he says that there’s been confusion surrounding the application process.

“For those who have internet, [the application process] was relatively easy,” Kimberly Stone, who attended last night’s sessions, said. “I'm getting information for other people in the community who still don't have internet, and still don't have the ability to apply online.”

Flood insurance is available to anyone living in any of the National Flood Insurance Program-designated communities. Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from government-backed lenders are required to have flood insurance making them eligible for assistance after Hurricane Ian.

Attendees were given a handout from Tzu Chi USA, a Buddhist organization, detailing their emergency financial assistance to the primary residents of homes that have been severely damaged by the hurricane. To register for help, visit https://tzuchi.us/ianrelief/application or email Southern_admin@tzuchi.us

Visit https://www.fema.gov/ for more information on Hurricane Ian recovery efforts and how to apply for SBA loans.

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at rjhazel4249@eagle.fgcu.edu