Glynn County, Ga., May Get Additional Help for Irma Recovery

Hurricane Irma grazed the Golden Isles in September 2017, and nearly two years after the fact, some are still feeling the aftermath. HUD set aside roughly $8 million to help residents in three ZIP codes with new repairs.

by Taylor Cooper, The Brunswick News, Ga. / August 21, 2019
AP

(TNS) — Some Glynn County residents could get additional government assistance if they’re still dealing with home damage from Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma grazed the Golden Isles in September 2017, and nearly two years after the fact some are still feeling the aftermath.

On Tuesday, county grant writer Monica Hardin told the county commission about a program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Georgia Department of Community Affairs to help people with lingering home damage.

“The purpose of the CDBG-DR funds — or the Community Development Block Grant funds, DR is for disaster recovery — they’re meant to address victims after the disaster,” Hardin said. “Obviously to help them get back on their feet and become more resilient.”

Residents of the ZIP codes 31520, 31705 and 31548 — Brunswick, Kingsland and Albany, Ga., respectively — were determined by HUD to be the most impacted by the storm, Hardin said.

The 31520 ZIP code is mostly composed of the city of Brunswick, but a small part sits in the unincorporated county.

HUD set aside roughly $8 million to help residents in the three ZIP codes. That money can only be used to help with new repairs, not to reimburse residents for repairs already done.

“If someone hired a contractor to go in and fix their property, we won’t be able to reimburse them for something that’s already been done,” Hardin said.

That money could be split between the three on a first-come, first-served basis, Hardin said. It won’t be awarded up-front, but as reimbursements for work the county and city do on qualified homes.

Damages must amount to more than $3,500, and residents must own the property, have lived in it during Hurricane Irma, have a “clean and clear title” to the property, fall within low to moderate income guidelines and have flood insurance if the property is in a flood zone. The owner did not need to have flood insurance at the time Hurricane Irma struck to qualify, however.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates around 23 people within the 31520 ZIP code to be eligible to get assistance from the program, but Hardin said she expects many more than that to apply.

“We believe there’s by far more than 23 properties in the 31520 ZIP code that qualify for services,” Hardin said.

If enough people from nearby ZIP codes apply for assistance from the program and they qualify, the program may be expanded.

“If we have people coming in from any of the other ZIP codes — 31525, 31522 — that do qualify within that low- to moderate-income guidelines and that were affected by Hurricane Irma we will be able to expand it if we get enough people coming through the doors from those areas,” Hardin said.

Both the city and county governments will have to operate one central intake location for residents to apply, but they will manage two separate programs, Hardin said.

The county can contract out all but “inherent governmental responsibilities,” which includes oversight.

Hardin couldn’t say when exactly the program will kickoff. Currently, county attorneys are working with the state Department of Community Affairs on a legal agreement to govern the arrangement.

Intake centers are required to be open for six months, Hardin said, but may stay open longer depending on how many come in to apply for assistance.

The county will begin advertising the program and location of the intake center once it reaches an agreement with the DCA.

In other business, the commission discussed transitioning from the defined benefits pension plan to a defined contributions pension plan for new county employees.

It made no formal decision on the matter.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.

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©2019 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)

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