FLORENCE, S.C. – People seeking federal assistance to aid in their recovery from Hurricane Florence have until Dec. 5 to apply.

The application for disaster assistance can be submitted online at disasterassistance.gov or at one of the disaster-recovery centers established by FEMA after Hurricane Florence. The nearest disaster-recovery center can be located by visiting fema.gov/drc.

“These disaster-recovery centers are open in order to facilitate the process,” FEMA spokesman Issa Mansaray said. “To make people walk in there so that you’ll be able to meet experts and the specialists that will take you through your application.”

The nearest disaster-recovery center to Florence is 2914 Spartan Place in the Marion County Industrial Park near Marion. The Darlington and Horry disaster-recovery centers closed Wednesday.

Mansaray recommends going to the disaster-recovery centers with proof of address like a bill, a government-issued ID, a current phone number and any change-of-address information. Homeowners also should take their mortgage documentation. Renters should take their rental contract. There also are various types of devices to help those affected by deafness or blindness at the disaster-recovery centers.

Representatives from the Internal Revenue Service and the Small Business Administration also are on site. The sites also have mitigation experts.

After registering for disaster assistance, the applicant may be contacted by a FEMA-contracted housing inspector to schedule an appointment for an inspection. FEMA uses multiple loss verification methods including an onsite inspection and documentation.

FEMA inspectors will contact applicants within two weeks after you have registered.

The inspector can and will use any contact information you have provided in your application.

Inspectors may call you, send you an email or text message to arrange an appointment for an inspection, to let you know a time of arrival, and/or to ask directions to your address. All FEMA personnel and contractors will have official identification. Always request to see the I.D. of anyone saying they work for FEMA if the badge or I. D. is not displayed.

Returning a completed application does not guarantee eligibility.  Financial assistance and direct services are provided to individuals and households who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs, and who meet the eligibility criteria.

If an applicant has been determined eligible for financial assistance they may receive an award from FEMA by check, or direct deposit into their bank account.

After registering for disaster assistance, applicants may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  FEMA collaborates with the SBA in determining applicant eligibility for some types of Other Needs Assistance. In times of disasters, SBA provides low-interest to applicants who have sustained damage in a disaster; loans for businesses, to homeowners and renters.  An applicant must meet a minimum income test, which the SBA establishes, to be considered for a loan. FEMA refers the applicant’s registration to SBA if the applicant’s income meets SBA minimum guidelines.

There’s no obligation to accept a loan, but applicants are encouraged to complete the application to determine if they qualify for a loan or whether they need to be referred back to FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance provision to be considered for personal property, moving and storage or transportation assistance. You may miss out on the largest source of federal disaster recovery funds if you don’t complete and submit an SBA application. If you need additional assistance from FEMA or disagree with FEMA’s decision you have a right to appeal FEMA’s decision in writing.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations could be eligible for up to $2 million in loans. For businesses, those loans can have an interest rate as low as 3.675 percent. For nonprofits, the rates can be as low as 2.5 percent. Homeowners can get rates as low as 2 percent for up to $200,000. Renters who have personal properties can receive up to $40,000 at interest rates as low as 2 percent.

“The interest rates are very appealing,” SBA public affairs specialist Leroy Frazier said. “We are encouraging them if they are referred to apply by that deadline of Dec. 5.”

The SBA has a site on the campus of Florence-Darlington Technical College.

People can apply for those loans at disasterloans.sba.gov, at one of the disaster recovery centers or by phone at 1-800-659-2955.

Persons accepted for SBA loans have 30 days to accept their loans.

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