St. John Parish households top $134M in disaster assistance ;Application deadline has passed, but FEMA is still here to help

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2021

LAPLACE — The deadline to apply for disaster assistance through FEMA was November 29, exactly three months from the day Hurricane Ida devastated Southeast Louisiana. FEMA spokesperson Gerard Hammink reported that, as of Monday, FEMA had approved more than 14,500 applications from St. John the Baptist Parish households.

Hammink said FEMA grants totaled more than $46.9 million in St. John Parish, including more than $14 million for basic repairs, $12 million for rental assistance, and $18 million for other forms of assistance such as replacement of personal property, transportation assistance, medical expenses and childcare, where applicable.

FEMA is continuing to provide rental assistance for 4,200 households. In St. John Parish, individuals from more than 500 households remain displaced in FEMA approved hotel rooms.

Disaster assistance has also come in the form of low-interest, long-term loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Spokesperson Yolanda O. Stokes shared that, as of the November 29 deadline, SBA had approved 1,221 disaster loans for a total of $87.8 million for individuals and businesses in St. John Parish. Throughout the state of Louisiana, SBA has approved 22,380 disaster loans for a total of $1,111,553,400.

Approximately 80% of the 18,600 applicants in St. John Parish met FEMA eligibility requirements. However, Hammink expects this number to increase as appeals continue to come in. Handling appeals will be the primary function of Disaster Recovery Centers moving forward, and St. John Parish residents wishing to appeal a FEMA denial are encouraged to visit the DRC location that remains open inside the Garyville Library parking lot from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Applicants have 60 days to appeal a FEMA denial, and the appeal process can be as simple as presenting a handwritten letter along with evidence of damage. If denied again, applicants have another 60-day window for an additional appeal.

Hammink said FEMA has been active throughout each of the impacted parishes to help jumpstart the recovery process.

“With more than $1 billion in grants out there for various needs across 25 parishes, that is a lot of money we have put into people’s bank accounts and into the community to help them in their recovery,” Hammink said. “While FEMA is just one part of a community and an individual’s road to recovery, we do feel that we have offered a lot of assistance. FEMA’s mission statement is helping people before, during and after disasters. In a way, the ‘before’ is already happening on the public assistance side as local governments are looking at what grants they can apply for to build back better.”

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard has stated that, as immediate needs are met, mitigation efforts will become a focus to protect the parish against future disasters.

While homeowners will need to work closely with local government to reduce future risk, FEMA offers resources on repairing, rebuilding and retrofitting after a hurricane online at fema.connectsolutions.com/lamit/ or by calling a mitigation specialist at 833-336-2487. This phone line is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Mitigation questions may also be submitted via email to FEMA-LAMit@fema.dhs.gov for a written response from a specialist.

Although the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance and SBA disaster loans was November 29, small businesses and nonprofit organizations still have an opportunity to apply for an SBA Economic Injury loan through May 31, 2022.

According to the SBA website, substantial economic injury means the business is unable to pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses. This is available to small businesses in declared disaster areas when SBA determines they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

SBA’s customer service center can be reached at 800-659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Individuals who are hard of hearing can call 800-877-8339.