As the only permanent agency in the tri-county area whose mission is to rebuild owner occupied homes, WARM has been very busy since Hurricane Florence.
Check out this video to see what we’ve been up to.
Our staff members have been spending a lot of time helping homeowners in the Cape Fear region navigate the FEMA application process. Like most assistance programs, it is designed to help those who really need it, so important documentation is required. An unintended consequence is that the process is cumbersome and confusing to people who are not familiar with it.
We have assessed dozens of homes since Florence hit and every one of them had been denied at least once by FEMA. We are helping them appeal; some of the award funds designated for home repair will be used to purchase building materials that WARM volunteers will use to rebuild the home.
Here are a few tips to help anyone who has been denied.
Your best bet is to visit a FEMA Disaster Resource Center (DRC). Bring paperwork with you! The agents are very helpful and will explain where you are in the process and what to do next. Click here to plug in your zip code to find the nearest office.
Here are the ones in the tri-county area:
Your first FEMA denial letter will probably ask you to apply for a loan from the Small Business Association (SBA).
- New Hanover County: Independence Mall, Wilmington
- Brunswick County: Virginia Williams Event Center, Bolivia
- Pender County: Pender Agricultural Center, Burgaw
Yes, you must apply to SBA (even if you are not a small business) in order to proceed with the FEMA process. You don’t have to accept the SBA loan. But it helps FEMA determine the types of assistance businesses, homeowners and renters are eligible for.
Yes, file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance, too.
The FEMA application and insurance claim can be done simultaneously, you don’t have to wait.
The good news is denial often just means deferred.
Follow the directions on the notification letter. Many times, FEMA is simply missing documents such as the SBA loan application or homeowner’s insurance information.
Do what you are supposed to do with the money and save all contracts, invoices and receipts.
Your award letter will indicate how much should go to which type of expense (repairs, temporary housing, food, etc.). The letter may arrive after your check. So, make sure you read the letter in its entirety before spending one penny. We’ve already seen one case of a homeowner who received FEMA funds after Hurricane Matthew for her roof but never got it repaired. She had additional damage in Florence but is not eligible for FEMA assistance this time due to the misuse of Matthew funds.
Even if you get an award, do not expect it to be enough for all the repairs.
FEMA’s mission is to supplement local and state resources to help communities through the emergency phase of a disaster.
As a FEMA representative put it at one of our community meetings: FEMA is not designed to make you whole.
FEMA is just the starting point of recovery; we must heal ourselves. Instinctively, it seems we all know this. I have seen everyone stepping up – businesses, individuals, local and state government, churches and nonprofits.
FEMA will help us through the crisis and move on. But WARM will remain and so will you. Since Hurricane Fran in 1996, we have rebuilt homes for over 1,200 families impacted by storms and general disrepair. Together, we will rebuild again.
Combining her professional experience in the Cape Fear region’s housing and real estate for-profit sector and volunteer experience with disaster recovery and housing-related nonprofits, JC Lyle (formerly Skane) was hired in 2009 to serve as the executive director of Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM). WARM is a grassroots nonprofit whose mission is to make homes safer by completing urgent repairs, accessibility upgrades and storm damage. Under her leadership, WARM has steadily grown from serving 44 households in 2008 to 155 households in 2016. Her public recognition includes Wilma Magazine's 2012 Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category, a 2014 Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNC Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and invitations to speak at NC Center for Nonprofits Conference and NC Affordable Housing Conference. She will graduate in May with her Master of Business Administration at UNC-Wilmington.