Nearly two years after the historic October 2015 storm, many low-income homeowners are finally receiving assistance to repair their flood-damaged homes with the help of The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office, or SCDRO. SCDRO announced in a press release last week that it closed its application intake period for the October 2015 Severe Storm Program at the end of April—capping off at 3,755 completed applications—and has moved forward with home repairs and replacements for eligible applicants.
“We expect to serve about 1,500 total [households]; that’s our goal,” said Beth Parks, Public Information Director for SCDRO. “Right now, we’ve served 266 clients already. Their home has either been replaced or rehabbed.”
Grant recipients’ homes will be subject to a damage assessment before SCDRO offers the homeowners an official award letter for an amount that will cover structural repairs and environmental fixes (such as persistent mold). In the case of some structures, particularly manufactured homes, the damage is too severe to repair, and the residence is replaced.
SCDRO evaluated 3,755 total applications from 22 eligible counties, including Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Graeenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Newberry, Orangeburg, Spartanvurg, Sumter and Williamsburg counties. Over 2,800 total applicants were found eligible, but those that are not among the 1,500 highest priority applicants will still be rejected.
“We did send out what we call ‘no service’ letters. Unfortunately, we had to do that . . . the disaster is much larger than the funding available,” said Parks. “Generally speaking, those people do not qualify because of their income, but they can appeal that if they think we’ve made a mistake and don’t have them in the right priority group.”
Priority groups were designated based on a number of factors. The most important factor was income, as the program was designed to help lower income households that would struggle to recover on their own. Lowest income applicants typically received a higher priority number, as well as households including an individual 65 years of age or older. Number of children or dependents in a home was also considered. Eligible applicants were assigned a priority between 1 and 8 based on these qualifiers, with priority groups 1 and 2 receiving aid with the existing funding SCDRO has from FEMA and HUD, which totals $97 million.
SCDRO does hope to receive more federal funding in the near future. According to Parks, the state organization has requested additional funds of $29 million from HUD, which would enable SCDRO to provide aid for up to 600 more eligible households. In the meantime, SCDRO is also gearing up to open applications for a separately funded grant program that helps the owners of homes affected by Hurricane Matthew. However, Parks emphasized that even as SCDRO shifts focus to Hurricane Matthew victims, the public shouldn’t forget that flood recovery is still ongoing.
“While we’re working on Hurricane Matthew, nobody needs to forget about the flood victims, because they’re still there . . . it’s a long-term process and long-term recovery.”
Parks also said that SCDRO will continue to service victims of the flood until "every cent" of funding is exhausted.