More than 200 have applied for FEMA assistance

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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During a called Troup County Board of Commissioners Meeting on Monday afternoon, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) gave the county an update on federal disaster relief efforts.

FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer John Boyle and SBA Public Affairs Specialist Vivian Santos-Rodriguez provided information on how property owners and residents can receive disaster relief due to the recent tornadoes and subsequent major disaster declaration by President Joe Biden.

Because of the declaration, public assistance federal funding is available in Butts, Henry, Jasper, Meriwether, Newton, Spalding and Troup counties. Boyle said about 240 FEMA employees are in Georgia right now to help provide disaster assistance. Many are going door-to-door to get people registered if their homes were damaged.

According to Boyle, a little more than 200 people have registered in Troup County as of Tuesday morning.

Boyle said the most important thing is that homeowners, renters and individuals in the community who sustained damage from the Jan. 12 storm is to register with FEMA. Whether they’re a renter or homeowner, register with FEMA, even if they have insurance, Boyle said.

“There might be things that insurance doesn’t cover, and they can get help with that,” Boyle said.

Boyle said that people affected by the tornadoes in Georgia can call 800-621-3362 or visit to apply for assistance online.

“Fraud is also a big issue,” Boyle said. “Ask to see a FEMA badge.”

When disasters strike, sometimes people claim they are with FEMA when they are not, Boyle said.

“If someone comes and says they’re from FEMA and they want information like a driver’s license or credit card, we don’t charge for what we do, nor does SBA. We’re never going to charge. We’re going to get personal information from people, but that’s going to happen because they have the badge, and they can show that badge.”

Boyle said FEMA is still working to set up a local office, which should be opened within a week.

Santos-Rodriguez said SBA has a help center opened in the William Griggs Center at 716 Glenn Robertson Dr. to assist the public and answer questions. 

“We provide loans for renters, homeowners, nonprofits and businesses of course, low-interest and long-term loans,” Santos-Rodriguez said.

“When [people] apply for assistance, federal assistance, the first assistance can be a loan, it can be a grant, it can be medical assistance. We never know, but we encourage people to go [to the website] or to download the FEMA app so they can register,” Santos-Rodriguez said.

If FEMA says that an individual needs to get a loan, rather than a grant, that doesn’t mean they have to do so, she said.

Santos-Rodriguez said they are encouraging people to apply because if they cannot help them, they will refer the individual to FEMA and FEMA will work with them.

“It’s very important to let everybody know when they get that letter from FEMA saying that you need to go to SBA, don’t get disappointed. Don’t get angry. It’s just maybe they need more information,” Santos-Rodriguez said. “That is not a final decision.”

Santos-Rodriguez said they provide two types of loans for businesses, for physical damages and economic injury.

“With our loans, people will get 12-month deferment, and the first year the person doesn’t have to pay and will pay zero interest,” she said.

The SBA provides loans up to $200,000 for homeowners and up to $40,000 for renters. Loans of up to $2 million are available for businesses, nonprofits, churches and private universities.

“For homeowners and individuals, the interest rate is 2.34 [percent], as low as 3.3 percent for businesses and nonprofits 2.375 [percent], so they’re very low interest and then the first year you don’t have any interest,” Santos-Rodriguez said.

SBA encourages tornado victims to register with FEMA and apply even if they have insurance. The loans can be used to pay for things insurance doesn’t cover and insurance payments can be used to repay the bills.

Tornado victims are also encouraged to take photos as they clean up damage and keep receipts for any items spent with federal funds.