Flood damaged home.

BRIGANTINE – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded a $7.3 million grant to partially reimburse property owners with the cost of elevating homes in six Atlantic County communities.

The grant will reimburse homeowners at least 75% of the cost of elevating 48 homes in Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, Longport and Somers Point. The remaining cost will be the responsibility of property owners.

“This is a huge win for the City of Brigantine and all the coastal communities in Atlantic County,” Brigantine Mayor Andy Simpson said in a release. “Thanks to funding from FEMA, property owners will be able to elevate homes that have suffered from flood loss damages in the past.”

James Rutala Associates of Linwood applied for the grant in the fall of 2018, detailing each specific property eligible for funding.

In 2016, the City of Ventnor took the lead in a similar application to elevate eight homes in Ventnor and Margate. In 2017, the City of Margate was the lead applicant in a request for funding to elevate 22 homes.

“Brigantine took the lead in this application because elevating homes is the best action that a coastal community can take to increase resiliency,” Simpson said. “We are happy to be able to assist property owners to elevate their homes out of harm’s way.”

FEMA offers the grants on an annual basis.

“The important thing about this grant is that because of all the storms we are having, the grant is becoming very competitive,” Rutala said. “FEMA prioritizes properties based on having multiple flooding events.”

The program requires property owners to maintain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program in perpetuity and the requirement becomes part of the property deed.

Applicants must be prepared to cover the entire cost of construction. Reimbursement is provided after all the work is completed in accordance with federal requirements.

No work can proceed until a grant contract is signed by the property owner. The property owner is fully responsible for completing the elevation project.

In some instances, funds received in past years are still being expended, Rutala said.

At least one Ventnor homeowner who was previously approved is having difficulty finding the money to raise their home, but the city is “working to help the homeowner with financing,” Rutala said.

“Most are able to find the money to make the improvements,” he said. “Elevating the home improves its value and greatly reduces the cost of flood insurance.”

To be qualified, homeowners must present a Flood Elevation Certificate, a written estimate of the cost of raising the home and other notarized documentation, Rutala said.

Homeowners interested in applying for this grant should contact their municipality’s flood plain manager or building inspector, Rutala said.

Ventnor will again be the lead agency on the 2019 grant application, Rutala said.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.