Survivors can take steps now to rebuild

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Hurricane Isaac survivors repairing their homes with an eye toward avoiding damage from future storms can take several steps now to rebuild stronger and safer.

Property owners who wish to speed up the rebuilding process do not have to wait for a complete Substantial Damage Inspection, say mitigation experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Property owners can provide the local permitting official with a copy of an estimate from a licensed contractor to repair the structure, and a copy of a pre-disaster market value appraisal. With these documents, they can apply for a permit to make needed repairs.

"Storm survivors are anxious to get on with repairs, and we encourage them to do so," said Patricia McArthur, Hazard Mitigation Branch Director for FEMA's Hurricane Isaac mission in Louisiana. "The rebuilding phase of any disaster is an ideal time to plan ways to prevent or limit future damage."

One source of funds for eligible homeowners who have flood insurance and whose homes were determined to be substantially damaged may be Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. ICC provides up to $30,000 of insurance coverage for the increased cost of compliance with their community's floodplain management ordinance.

FEMA assistance for individuals may include grants to help pay for temporary housing and emergency home repairs to make a home habitable. Survivors could also be eligible for grants for serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

FEMA may also assist survivors whose insurance settlements have been delayed longer than 30 days from the time they filed their claims. Any help awarded by FEMA is considered an advance and must be repaid once an insurance settlement is received. The current maximum is $31,400.

To apply for an advance, people with delayed settlements should write a letter to FEMA explaining the situation. Homeowners should include documentation from their insurance companies proving their claim was filed. If they filed by telephone, they should include their claim number, the date they applied, and estimated time before they expect to receive the settlement.

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