Cindy Hartman had been through a lot before showing up at Wednesday’s post-flood community meeting at Lugoff Fire-Rescue’s (LF-R) headquarters.
Hartman, her voice shaking at times, talked about how she was being retraumatized by the advance of mold in her home for the second time in 10 years. The first time, she said -- following a faulty HVAC installation -- ultimately killed her husband.
Now, this time due to flooding, the mold was back.
“I spent a tremendous amount of money going through mold abatement at that time, and I was ravaged by it,” Hartman said. “So, I need help going through this process again.”
Luckily, Hartman has registered for assistance from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A S.C. Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) representative told Hartman she had done the right thing by registering. If for any reason she is denied, she’ll be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) which provides grant and low-interest loans to individuals and non-profits in additional to small business owners.
Questions like Hartman’s and the agencies’ answers were exactly why Kershaw County’s legislative delegation set up Wednesday’s meeting, according to State Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The meeting included representatives not only from the SBA, FEMA and SCEMD, but Kershaw County government departments; and S.C. departments of Agriculture, Employment and Workforce, Health and Environmental Control, Insurance and Transportation.
The primary message: register for federal assistance. If you’re denied, work through the SBA’s loan programs. If those don’t fit, go back to FEMA because they have other, possible assistance. Also check in with the other agencies for help.
For example, Cheryl Stanton with S.C. Works said employees who lost work due to any effect from the flooding can apply for unemployment insurance through Nov. 6. If you’re initially rejected, Stanton said, you’ll be placed in a special disaster insurance program. In neither case will an employer be penalized for their employees filing claims, she said.
Kathy Bradley, who lives in Lugoff’s Federicksburg community, said she and her neighbors maintain a dam holding back a 14-acre lake. It is one of several Class I dams in the county, meaning if it had failed, there could be loss of life and property. Bradley said dam owners decided to lower the lake levels ahead of the heavy rains. LF-R Chief Dennis Ray said their actions saved lives since, as Bradley pointed out, it is only 500 to 1,000 feet away from U.S. 601.
However, Bradley and her neighbors are being hit with the costs of making even the minimal repairs necessary to the dam out of their own pockets. She wondered if there was any way they could reimbursed. A FEMA representative said he would try to find out.
Most of the agencies represented Wednesday provided statistics of how things went and where things stand:
• Thirty-seven roads were closed in Kershaw County at the height of the flood event; there is expected to be only one closed -- Pine Grove Road -- by today.
• The S.C. Department of Agriculture estimates a $300 million crop loss statewide, not including farm infrastructure or seeds.
• At least 14,000 homes suffered major damage in the state, with another 30,000 suffering minimal damage.
• The SBA had given out $12.8 million to South Carolina homeowners as of Wednesday morning.
Agency representatives also urged flood victims not to be afraid of asking anyone they come in contact with during the disaster recovery process for official identification.
“All of our people, they will be identifiable, usually by the clothes they wear, but definitely by the ID,” SBA Public Affairs Specialist Adrianne Laneave said. “The first thing they need to do is show you that ID, and if there’s any question, please notify your local authorities.”
FEMA Media Relations Specialist Carl Henderson told the C-I ahead of Wednesday’s meeting flood victims should also beward of contractor scams. He said there is no such thing as a “FEMA approved” contractor.
Henderson urged residents to check with the local planning and zoning office to make sure anyone working on their home is a licensed contractor.
Thursday, Henderson reported eight people signed up for assistance Wednesday night who had not done so before.