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What to Expect When FEMA Arrives

Within a few days the President is set to sign a declaration of the Camp Fire as a major disaster, allowing for FEMA grants and SBA disaster loans for homeowner, renters, business owners, and non-profit organizations. READ THIS to find out what to expect.

Posted: Nov. 11, 2018 11:20 PM
Updated: Nov. 13, 2018 4:34 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - When the President of the United States declares the Camp Fire as a major FEMA disaster, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be arriving to set up a Disaster Recovery Center with Butte County officials and other agencies.

After the major disaster declaration is made, those who experienced losses due to the fire can register with FEMA, which is the first step in receiving any financial assistance.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, 2018, President Trump signed a declaration for the Camp Fire as a "federal disaster," but that is only one step of the process, said Mark Spannagel, Chief of Staff for Congressmember Doug LaMalfa.

Spannagel said Congressmember LaMalfa spent many hours on Sunday on the phone with the heads of Homeland Security, the Department of Health Services, the National Security Council, and Internal Affairs for the White House to fast-track the FEMA major disaster declaration process.

The process usually takes two to three days, but Spannagel said it might only take one to two days, because of these efforts undertaken by Congressmember LaMalfa on Sunday.

FEMA and SBA representatives will work with Butte County after the declaration process is completed, to help homeowners, renters, business owners and administrators of non-profit agencies apply for available FEMA grants and low-interest SBA loans.

FEMA provides grants to those who are qualified, and these grants do not have to be paid back.

The FEMA grants may be used for such things as temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental and funeral expenses related to the fire.

Other serious expenses such as disaster-related car repairs, personal property replacement, moving and storage costs, and the purchase of replacement clothing and household items may be income dependent. That funding will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

FEMA will NOT pay to return your home to its pre-disaster condition. The grants provided may not pay for all the damage, but the program is designed to pay for damage not covered by insurance. (The SBA loan program is often what is utilized to actually return a home to its pre-disaster condition).

FEMA’s Housing Assistance program is available, regardless of income, to anyone who suffered damages or losses due to the Camp Fire.

You do not have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive individual assistance from FEMA if you have a child living at home who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. You would apply for assistance on that child’s behalf. FEMA may provide undocumented, eligible immigrants with short-term non-cash emergency aid.

Some people want to know if they can register with FEMA if they have already cleaned up and made repairs to their property. The answer is yes. You may be eligible for reimbursement of clean-up and repair expenses. Before and after photos of the damaged property can help expedite your assistance application.

SBA DISASTER LOANS FOR HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS

In addition to applying for FEMA grants, a homeowner may apply for SBA low-interest disaster loans for up to $200,000 to repair damage to their primary residence. Homeowners and renters may also apply for a separate disaster loan for up to $40,000 to repair or replace their personal belongings, including the contents of their homes and cars.

The interest rate for homeowners can be as low as two percent with terms up to 30 years, but the formula is dependent upon variables such as income and ability to repay.

SBA disaster loans can be used to relocate. The amount of a relocation loan depends on whether you relocate voluntarily or involuntarily. If you are interested in relocation, an SBA representative can provide you with more details on your specific situation.

Homeowners may be eligible for the refinancing of existing liens or mortgages on homes, up to the amount of the loan for real estate repair or replacement. ($200,000 maximum) The SBA can refinance all or part of prior mortgages that are evidenced by a recorded lien, when the applicant does not have credit available elsewhere, or has suffered substantial uncompensated disaster damage (40 percent or more of the value of the property or 50 percent or more of the value of the structure), and is intending to repair the damage. The size of this loan can be up to the amount of the loan for real estate repair or replacement, which is a maximum of $200,000.

Some property does not qualify for an SBA disaster loan, including secondary homes, personal pleasure boats, airplanes, recreational vehicles and similar property (unless used for business purposes).

Property such as antiques and collections are eligible only to the extent of their functional value.

Amounts for landscaping, swimming pools, etc. are limited.

Applicants who have not complied with the terms of previous SBA loans may not be eligible.

SBA DISASTER LOANS FOR LANDLORDS

Landlords can apply for disaster loans to rebuild housing they use for rental income. However, secondary homes that are NOT rented for business income are NOT qualified for funding for replacement or repair funding.

Applicants who have not complied with the terms of previous SBA loans may not be eligible.

SBA DISASTER LOANS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS AND NON-PROFITS

Business owners may request to borrow up to two million dollars to repair or replace their business assets, including such items as buildings, inventory and supplies. Businesses may also apply for working capital loans to help pay the bills they would have been able to pay if the fire had not occurred.

As a small business, small agricultural cooperative, a small business engaged in aquaculture, or private non-profit organization, you may quality borrow up to two million for “Economic Injury” (for those who lost work due to the fire).

The maximum cumulative business loan requests for businesses and non-profits will be two million dollars, which includes repair, replacement, working capital and “economic injury.”

Business owners may be eligible for the refinancing of existing mortgages or liens on real estate, machinery and equipment up to the amount of the loan of for the repair or replacement of real estate, machinery and equipment.

Applicants who have not complied with the terms of previous SBA loans may not be eligible.

FIRST STEP TO QUALIFY FOR FEMA GRANTS AND SBA LOANS IS TO REGISTER WITH FEMA

There are three ways to register with FEMA, but this cannot occur be taken UNTIL a major federal disaster declaration has been made by President Trump.

The President has already declared the Camp Fire as a federal disaster (he did this Saturday on Air Force One en route to Paris), but other steps need to take place before he can sign the “major disaster declaration,” which is required before FEMA can start registering those who suffered losses for any grants or loan programs.

You are asked to register with FEMA, even if you are not planning to request a disaster loan. (IMPORTANT NOTE: You will be disqualified for all grants and/or low-interest disaster loans if you do not register)

There are three ways to register with FEMA:
1. Online at DisasterAssistance.gov
2. Download the FEMA mobile app
3. Call FEMA and register by phone at (800) 621-3362

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU COMPLETE YOUR FEMA REGISTRATION

After you register you will receive a phone call from a FEMA inspector to arrange for a survey of the damages. This will happen just days after you register.

All FEMA inspectors will have official identification.

IMPORTANT NOTE: FEMA inspectors do not approve or deny claims or requests. This will happen later in the process after the inspection results are submitted. FEMA inspectors do not ask for money and do not recommend contractors to make repairs.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A FEMA DENIAL LETTER

Do not despair, officials say. Sometimes there is just an error in the application that can be easily fixed. It is suggested you contact FEMA and fix any errors in your application, or if you have to, appeal the denial decision.

HOW TO CHECK THE STATUS OF YOUR FEMA APPLICATION

1. Check your status online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov
2. Call the toll-free FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362 (FEMA)
3. If you hard deaf or hard-of-hearing use their TTY number: (800) 462-7585
4. If you need face-to-face assistance you can visit a Disaster Recovery Center, which will be set up shortly after the major disaster declaration is signed by the President.

AFTER FEMA APPROVAL IS GIVEN TO YOU, APPLY FOR AN SBA DISASTER LOAN

Here are the steps:
1. Register online at www.DisasterLoan.sba.gov/ela
2. Apply in person at a Disaster Recovery Center, when one is set up for the Camp Fire disaster
3. If you hard deaf or hard-of-hearing call via the SBA’s TTY number at (800) 462-7585

You will be required to fill out a Home Loan Application (SBA Form 5c) completed and signed by the applicant and a co-applicant, if there is one.

An IRS Form 4506-T needs to be completed and turned in, after being signed by the applicant and any co-applicants.
You do not have to be turned down by a bank before you can apply for a disaster loan.

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU APPLY FOR A SBA DISASTER LOAN

1. SBA will review your credit
2. An SBA verifier will estimate the total physical loss to your disaster-damaged property
3. A loan officer will determine your eligibility, after reviewing any insurance or other recoveries.

IMPORTANT NOTE: SBA can make a loan while your insurance recovery is pending, and you can begin repairs with your SBA loan, as long as the applicant agrees to use the insurance settlement towards the loan.

WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOUR SBA DISASTER LOAN IS GRANTED

SBA will prepare and send your loan closing documents to you for your signature.

An initial disbursement of up to $50,000 will be made available within five days of the receipt of your signed documents. This can include up to $25,000 to cover physical damages and up to $25,000 for working capital needed due to economic injury.

A caseworker will be assigned to work with you to help you meet all the conditions of the loan. They will schedule your subsequent disbursements until you have received the full amount of the loan.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Your loan may be adjusted after the closing due to your changing circumstances, such as increasing the loan for unexpected repair costs or reducing the loan due to additional insurance proceeds.

A LITTLE ADVICE FROM THE SBA

An SBA spokesperson told Action News Now that her most important piece of advice is to stay patient throughout the process.

She advised all who experienced losses from the Camp Fire to register with FEMA before the deadline (which has not been determined yet). She said if you are denied, file an appeal, after checking with SBA to make sure you were not denied for

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 9800) 621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call (800) 462-7585.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

The 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. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling (800) 959-2955., emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visiting SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800) 877-8339.

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