In 2015 Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County expanded its reach through participation in a program designed to help homeowners dealing with disaster damage. The affiliate is currently working with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to connect property owners with grants to help them pay for home repairs following natural disasters. Though the organization in the past has focused on building new homes, this program enables Habitat for Humanity to broaden its services.
MEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program was designed to provide homeowners with help paying for things like elevation, relocation and even demolition following natural disasters. Individual homeowners cannot apply for this grant and must work with a sponsor entity such as Habitat. Once a homeowner contacts MEMA to determine whether a project is eligible for funding, they can request that Habitat for Humanity begin the application process. Once a grant is awarded, Habitat handles the paperwork and manages the project.
Though participants in the program are expected to put in the “sweat equity” Habitat requires with its more traditional projects, the work is often not on the actual project construction. Instead, homeowners can volunteer their time in other ways. The recipient of Habitat for Humanity’s first hazard mitigation grant, a homeowner in West Ocean City struggling to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, is providing graphic design services to the organization.
The grant program is a little different than Habitat for Humanity’s typical projects not only because it funds repairs rather than new buildings but also because it’s open to more people. While the organization’s new homes go to area residents making 30-60 percent of the median income, those applying for hazard mitigation grants can be members of a higher income bracket.