Program available for homeowners affected by flooding

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Financial assistance for some Dubois County residents impacted by the recent area flooding can be tapped at the local United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development office in Jasper.

County residents who live in rural areas, suffered flood damage and also receive very low annual income are encouraged to reach out to the office’s lenders to take advantage of the organization’s Section 504 Home Repair Program. The program is not limited to storm damage, but USDA Southern Indiana Team Leader Terri Weyer said it can be particularly valuable to qualifying residents who do not have flood insurance.

Interested parties can apply for loans of as much as $20,000, which can be repaid over 20 years and have a fixed interest rate of 1 percent. Residents age 62 and older can also apply for a grant of as much as $7,500 to make repairs.

“We’re not here to make loans, we’re not here to make grants, we’re here to help (residents) get done what they need to have done,” said Weyer, who operates from the Jasper area office.

She estimated that roughly 85 to 90 percent of applicants to the 504 program receive approval, noting declines are rare and applicants who earn more than the income limit are directed to other USDA programs that can help them make the repairs. Families of four or fewer must have an adjusted income of less than $35,000, while families of five whose income exceeds $46,200 are not eligible for the 504 program.

The Section 502 Direct Loan Program, for example, assists low- and very-low-income applicants in obtaining decent, safe and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability. Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites.

Recently, Weyer and family housing specialist Milagro Serrano have worked with a few homeowners in the county who had basements that caved in because of the flooding, but the 504 program can also be used for other repairs, to improve or modernize homes and remove health and safety hazards.

“We don’t give up until we’ve exhausted all of our resources,” Weyer said. “Overall, (Serrano) and I will do everything we can to make the application work.”

Interested residents can visit the USDA website or call the local office at 812-482-1171, extension 4, to discuss loan and grant possibilities.

Thursday, Dubois County Emergency Management Agency Director Tammy Humbert issued a press release that said the deadline for county residents to report water damage to their homes from the recent flooding to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is fast approaching. A certain number of reports are required for the county to apply for assistance from the state or federal government.   

“I’ll just be honest, right now it’s not looking very promising,” Humbert said of the prospects of receiving state or federal assistance. “We just are not making the numbers that we need. The people that have been devastated by it have really been devastated, but then the others that have been hit by it, it’s not their essential living quarters so it doesn’t qualify for that threshold that we need.”

She explained that more residents whose homes flooded with 18 inches of water or more on the first floor or in a basement with essential living quarters such as a bedroom, kitchen or living room need to report damages for the county to receive funding.

But Humbert said she is not giving up, and stressed that she is not downplaying the seriousness of the flooding to people whose homes filled with less than the 18 inches of water.

Though a concrete report deadline is not set, it’s been nearly a month since the flooding and Humbert said she doesn’t think the deadline will extend much further.

“It’s not about who can take care of their own issues, it’s about the numbers,” Humbert said. “That might help take care of somebody who absolutely can’t. We’ve got people that have homes totally destroyed. How are they going to fix those?”

The IDHS is accepting online damage reports at www.in.gov/dhs. Individuals will be asked to provide their name, address, phone number and type of damage the property sustained. Any damage had to occur April 26 or later.
For more information, contact the Dubois County Emergency Management Agency at 812-482-2202.




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