As Florida citizens prepared and then braced for impact with Hurricane Matthew, a storm of tremendous size and strength that loomed off the state’s eastern coastline in early October, President Obama took the anticipatory step of declaring a State of Emergency for the state of Florida.

This declaration allowed federal agencies to open an immediate dialogue with state and local government officials about the type and extent of federal relief that could be made available to those residents most affected by the storm.

In the days that followed, and as the storm continued its northeastern trajectory, the President’s declaration and the resulting relief efforts were extended to include portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

In Florida, those counties included: Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia. In Georgia, those counties included: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh. In North Carolina, those counties included: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Hoke, Hyde, Jones, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, Pender, Pitt, Robeson, Wayne, and Wilson. And finally, in South Carolina, those counties included: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Marion, and Williamsburg.

In total, nearly 50 counties across 4 states were ultimately affected by Hurricane Matthew.

The President’s declaration authorized the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to initiate federal disaster relief measures under Title V of the Stafford Act, a federal relief act intended to provide relief in areas affected by natural disasters such as a hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, or typhoon. Its primary goal is to lessen the disaster-induced hardship on mortgagors with FHA-insured mortgages, provide such mortgagors additional time to obtain benefits under their hazard insurance policies, and help mortgagors secure available FHA insurance benefits.

On October 11, 2016, Julian Castro, Secretary of the Department of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, announced the agencies’ intent to offer foreclosure and other housing assistance to residents in affected communities. This assistance includes:

  • The use of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs that allow states the ability to redirect substantial financial resources to address critical needs such as temporary housing, housing repair and replacement, and other related aid to the communities most in need;
  • The granting of a 90-day foreclosure moratorium and forbearance period on mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA);
  • Allowing the FHA to insure qualified mortgages to major disaster victims who lost their homes;
  • Providing loan programs that allow major disaster victims to secure financing to purchase or refinance a home that includes repair or rehabilitation costs in a single mortgage; and
  • Offering state and local governments federally guaranteed loans for specific public purposes such as repairing public infrastructure.

Servicers of FHA-insured loans have been provided with directives and guidelines for extending the above relief measures to qualified mortgagors. However, homeowners in disaster areas that are experiencing difficulties paying their mortgage are still urged to take the initiative and contact their loan servicers directly to discuss their eligibility for the benefits set forth above. Homeowners may be asked to provide documentation to establish that they qualify for a particular form of available relief.

A general discussion of disaster relief options available to FHA homeowners is available via HUD’s website.

To the extent a homeowner is unsatisfied with the outcome of those discussions, they are invited to call a HUD-approved counseling agency at (800) 569-4287 or contact HUD’s National Servicing Center.