Seniors struggling to deal with aftermath, find resources
Nashville, TN — One of every five Tennesseans affected by the spring floods is at least 60 years old and many elderly homeowners are struggling to deal with the aftermath, causing concern for agencies that are trying to aid in recovery.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 12,500 of the 64,700 folks who have applied for assistance are 60-plus years old. An unprecedented number have such severe damage they are receiving the maximum federal grants of $29,900, FEMA officials say. In Davidson County, one-third of residents with that much damage are 60 or older.
FEMA is in the process of calling every affected Tennessean age 60 and older to make sure they’re getting the help they need, AARP Tennessee has learned. But some are still in shock and aren’t able to make decisions about rebuilding their homes. Others are having trouble accessing resources that can help.
“Some people just need someone to hold their hands and walk them through it,” said Maribeth Farringer of the Council on Aging.
AARP Tennessee is hosting regular meetings with representatives of local, state and federal agencies, flood recovery teams and the aging community in hopes of ensuring that older Tennesseans get the help they need in a timely manner.
Many still don’t understand the importance of asking the federal government for help. They don’t realize that a FEMA application alone opens the door to all kinds of federal, state and community assistance.
For example, homeowners who want a refund of the state sales tax they pay on replacement appliances, furniture and building supplies – a tax break of up to $2,500 – must provide documentation that they received FEMA assistance. Go to www.TN.gov/revenue or call 800-342-1003 to learn more.
Tennesseans with FEMA documentation also can qualify for up to $500.00 in cash rebates for eligible weatherization and heating and cooling improvements, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Homeowners may also receive up to $20,000 in low-interest financing through participating power distributors.
Other relief available to flooded homeowners includes the federal Residential Energy Credit for replacement heating and air systems, windows, insulation or other items related to energy efficiency, according to the IRS. To determine which items qualify for a tax credit of up to $1,500, visit www.energystar.gov or call 888-STAR-YES / (888-782-7937).
Affected Tennesseans may want to consider filing an amended 2009 tax return to take advantage of credits now available, rather than waiting to file a 2010 return, according to the IRS. For more information, visit the “Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses” page at IRS.gov or call the IRS disaster hotline: 866-562-5227.
The deadline to register with FEMA is Aug. 5. Tennesseans can apply online anytime at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or TTY) 800-462-7585 for those with speech and hearing disabilities.
Folks seeking help recovering from the floods can call 211 statewide to learn about other resources or visit http://tn211.mycommunitypt.com/. Tennesseans with questions about navigating the recovery system can call the Tennessee legal help hotline at 888-395-9297.
“There is a lot of help available for people trying to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives, but they have to know where to turn,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly. “AARP is trying to make sure the information is getting out to the public, but it is up to each of us to share the news with our families, friends and neighbors.”