Did your business in Brick, Point Pleasant or elswhere in the Jersey Shore region lose revenue because of Superstorm Sandy?
If so, you should apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, even if your business was not physically damaged or flooded by the storm, according to an SBA official who addressed a crowd of 450 to 500 people in Point Pleasant Beach on Wednesday night.
Those businesses may be eligible for "Economic Injury Loans," Garth McDonald, an SBA public affairs specialist, said to an overflow crowd at Point Pleasant Beach's G. Harold Antrim Elementary School.
And any owner of a business, home or car that was flooded or damaged physically should also apply for the low-interest loans, McDonald said.
He said there are loans available for up to $2 million for businesses, $200,000 to repair or replace homes and another $40,000 for personal property loss. For more information about SBA loans, see the SBA website. To listen to an audio seminar about SBA loans and other important information for businesses, click here
Not Enough FEMA to Go Around
The forum at Antrim was moderated by Point Beach Councilmember Kristine Tooker, who thanked Point Beach Business Administrator Christine Riehl for planning and coordinating the event.
Following the presentations in the main auditorium by officials from SBA and FEMA, there were small group sessions in classrooms and other rooms in the school designed to help residents get one-on-one attention and answers.
There were some residents at the crowded forum who complained that FEMA had brought along with them only two laptop computers to use for one-on-one conversations with residents who wanted to know what their Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) is, if they need to elevate their homes, by how much, why and how it will affect their flood insurance rates in the future. That led to long waits for some residents and a lack of answers for others. (Some information is also available on the Region 2 FEMA website.)
FEMA Official Talks About Financial Assistance
Bill McDonnell, FEMA Deputy Mitigation Grant Director, told the crowd that because he lives in Brick, he understands the type of devastation that residents have suffered.
McDonnell said that residents may qualify for $30,000 to help pay for elevating and renovating flooded homes.
The FEMA website states: "If your property is insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you may qualify for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage.
"Policyholders in high-risk areas can receive up to $30,000 to help pay the costs of bringing their home into compliance with their community's flood plain ordinance. You can only file an ICC claim if your community determines that your home has been substantially or repetitively damaged by a flood.
"This determination is made when you apply for a building permit to begin repairing your home. Substantial damage generally means that repairs will cost 50 percent or more of the building’s pre-damage market value. More information on ICC coverage is available through FEMA’s ICC web page. You may also call your insurance company or agent or the NFIP toll-free number at 1 800-427-4661 for assistance."
Any resident or property owner considering applying for ICC funds should first find out from their local officials if they will be committed to elevating their flooded homes even if they ultimately do not receive the funding.
Prior to the meeting, when McDonnell was told that many residents have found that $30,000 is not enough to elevate, he said that the state will be disbursing $1.8 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) just released by Congress last week that may help offset more of the cost.
There are also Hazard Mitigation Grants that may be available. Applicants need to apply through their towns. For information about the program in Point Borough, click here. For information about the program in Point Beach, click here.
How did FEMA do those flood maps?
McDonnell said FEMA's New Jersey officials had been working on a revision of FEMA flood maps long before Sandy ever hit the Jersey Shore. The process, which takes three to five years, involves "a lot of engineering, science and field work," he said.
"We were about three years into when Sandy hit," he said. "We felt we had enough data to provide to residents. There is usually an 18 to 24 month review proces. But we didn't want to wait until then (to release the maps publicly)."
So FEMA released the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps in December.
"The question always comes up, 'How sure are you that they are accurate?' " McDonnell said. "Maybe certain zones will shrink a bit. But there is no guarantee. We think the maps are pretty much right on.
"There will be time for local officials to review and appeal, but only if there is better science," he said.
He said the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was passed in July, 2012, phases out insurance subsidies and a grandfather clause that would have allowed former flood insurance rates to still apply.
How to Appeal Your Flood Zone
Patricia Brach, FEMA, External Affairs Mitigation Liaison, provided the following emailed response when Patch asked how property owners can appeal the flood zone they are now in according to the current ABFEs. Brach explained that appeals cannot be filed until the maps, now only "advisory," become "preliminary" which may happen in August or September.
Brach wrote: "Individuals or groups of individuals and communities may appeal during the 90 days following the release of Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The appeal must be based on scientific or technical data that would be more better than what FEMA has determined. The Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps are expected to be released later this summer. Individuals should contact their local officials. They can begin gathering information now.
The following is a summary of the process to appeal new NFIP Maps. For more detailed information, please view FEMA's Appeals, Revisions, and Amendments to National Flood Insurance Program Maps: A Guide for Community Officials.
- If applicable, FEMA sends a certified return receipt letter to the chief executive official (CEO) of a community informing the community of the new base flood elevations and information about the appeal process. FEMA then publishes two notices of the proposed base flood elevation determination in local area newspaper(s) and in the Federal Register. The 90-day appeal period begins after the 2nd notice is published.
- An appeal must include scientific or technical data that tend to negate or contradict the proposed flood elevation findings.
- Appeals by citizens shall be submitted to the CEO of the community for review and determination if the scientific or technical grounds for an appeal warrants forwarding the appeal to FEMA.
- Any and all appeals by citizens or the community received within 90 days must be resolved, before the next step.
- The FEMA Administrator shall resolve such appeals by consultation with local officials, or by administrative hearings, or by submission of the contradictory data to an independent scientific body or appropriate Federal agency.
- After 90 days and after all appeals are resolved, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination.
- Within 60 days of a Final Determination, an appeal may be filed with the US District Court."
For more information about FEMA, see the Region 2 FEMA website, which has a Hurricane Sandy tab that enables visitors to check their Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) and use an ABFE "toolkit" for property owners.
Residents and business owners can also visit the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, 270 Chambers Bridge Road, Brick, where they can talk to officials from FEMA, SBA and other agencies. McDonald said the center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.