Topic: Disaster Relief

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If you are elderly or disabled and own your home, you may qualify for a reduction of your property taxes.

To be eligible, you must be either 65 or older, or totally and permanently disabled. You also must own and live in your home, unless you are living elsewhere for medical reasons.

This reduction does not happen automatically. You will need to submit an application to your local tax office. Applications are accepted from January 1 to June 1 of each year. You can find the Application for Property Tax Relief online, or ask for a copy in your county tax office.

There are three possible exemptions you may receive:

Elderly or Disabled Exemption

  • You must be either 65 or older, or totally and permanently disabled.
  • Your income must be under a certain limit. For 2024, the limit is $36,700 annually.
  • You will need to turn in information about your income. If you are disabled but not elderly, your doctor will also have to fill out a form.
  • If you qualify for the exemption, the county will tax your property as if it were worth less than it really is. For tax calculation purposes, the county will either exclude the first $25,000 in value or will reduce the value by 50%, whichever lowers your bill more.

Disabled Veteran Exemption

  • You must be a veteran with a totally and permanently service-connected disability, and who left the military under honorable conditions.
  • Widows and widowers of disabled veterans also qualify, if you have not remarried.
  • There are no income limits for this exemption.
  • Your home will be taxed as if it were worth $45,000 less than it really is.

“Circuit Breaker” Tax Deferment

  • This is an alternative to the Elderly and Disabled Exemption. You must be either 65 or older, or totally or permanently disabled.
  • Under this exemption, your taxes can be calculated as a percentage of your income, rather than based on the value of the property.
    • For 2024, if your income is below $36,700, your taxes will be limited to 4% of your income.
    • If your income is between $36,700 and $55,050, your taxes will be limited to 5% of your income.
  • Taxes above the limit will be a lien on the property that is forgiven after 3 years.

Topic: Disaster Relief

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By Tiffany Smith, Attorney, Disaster Relief Project

Starting in August 2023, I began a journey across North Carolina that most people, including North Carolinians, had never done. Earlier that year in May, I attended a rural economic development seminar in Elizabeth City, NC. During that seminar, they provided a map of the most at-risk disaster areas in NC. At the top of the list was Hyde County. I had no clue where Hyde County was in NC, as I had never heard of it, but I decided to reach out to them that day. You see, I work as a staff attorney in Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Disaster Relief Project, and I am an African American female who is a double graduate of North Carolina Central University (NCCU). During the Elizabeth City presentation, the statistics showed that Hyde County is majority rural, and the African American community there is the most at risk of land loss during disasters than any other people in the state. Because of my background, I was immediately drawn to do outreach there. I scheduled a presentation on Disaster Relief’s services for August 2023.

Fast forward to August, and lo and behold I had completely forgotten to appropriately schedule myself. Instead, I was asked by a supervisor to do outreach in Haywood County, to which I had agreed. A day later, one of the teams’ paralegals called me and asked if I was still going to Hyde, and I replied yes. I had assumed the travel dates would be apart; however, when I looked at my schedule, I realized that I had to travel the entire length of the state of NC, from Hyde to Haywood, in a matter of days. Rather than cancel and not keep my word, I decided to travel to both events. At that point, I wanted to make it a journey and do outreach in every single county in NC. In that initial journey, I talked to people about the services of Legal Aid in at least 33 counties. In October and November, I realized that I had to travel the length of the state again, so I decided on a different route. By the end of November, I had traveled to 87 out of 100 counties. In December, over the holidays, I went on to complete my journey.

I am very interested in economic development, in addition to disaster relief. Traveling the state, I was able to learn about everyday people’s knowledge and curiosity of disasters and economic development. From this experience, I realized the top disaster on the majority of the state’s mind was active shooting and domestic terrorism. I was able to ask about natural disasters and climate change, and many of the people I spoke to were not as concerned. In terms of economic development, I realized much of the state is very rural. I noticed that there is no consistent and functional cell phone reception in much of the state. As a disaster relief team member, this concerned me. I realized that in the event of a disaster, many people will not be able to call for help. This may result in an underreporting of the number of disasters accounted for. In addition, in many of the rural counties, law enforcement presence is lacking, and in many urban communities, law enforcement and first responder presence is overrepresented. This leaves open the possibility of no first responders being able to access people in a timely manner in the event of a disaster.

Leaving aside the disasters, I learned that the most beautiful places in the state are not in the middle, but in the far east and west. They are the most rural and underdeveloped, but their natural beauty is more picturesque. Here are some of the hidden gems of North Carolina that I came across in my travels: Currituck County to the east, Rutherford County to the west, and Alamance County in central NC. I do look forward to traveling back to those for personal enjoyment, as well as a handful of other places that I would love to do day trips.

Topic: Disaster Relief

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If it’s not safe for human beings, it’s not safe for animals. Pets are more dependent on us than ever during an emergency; with this guide, you’ll be able to prepare, evacuate, and shelter with your animal family.

Gather What You’ll Need and Make a Plan

Before a disaster, all animal families should prepare an evacuation plan, an emergency kit, and first aid kits for you and for your animals. Begin the process by gathering important information: make copies of your pets’ vaccination records and owner contact information, collect info about your local shelters, animal control services, and poison control, and verify that these details are up to date.

A thorough, ready-to-go plan is essential to helping you, your family, and your pets stay safe during an emergency, so make preparations beforehand. Emergency shelters for pets must be provided in case of evacuations, but it’s also a good idea to find out what hotels in your area allow pets. Keep one or more safe locations in mind before the disaster hits, and if there is an alternate location, such as at a family member’s house, try to visit with your animals beforehand.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

  • Food, in a protected container
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • First aid kit
  • Medication, in a protected container
  • Backup collar with tag and backup leash
  • Sturdy carrier
  • Pet brushes and shampoo
  • Picture of yourself and pet to document ownership
  • Sanitation bags
  • Favorite toys, treats, and blankets

Assemble a Pet First Aid Kit

  • Information on pet’s medical status
  • Veterinarian contact info
  • All medical records
  • Digital thermometer
  • Muzzle
  • Gauze for you or your pet
  • Clean towels
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Scissors
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Small flashlight
  • Hydrogen peroxide

All About Shelters

When a disaster arises, shelters for animals are REQUIRED: The PETS Act of 2006 is now part of the Stafford Act, meaning pet-friendly shelters must open whenever an evacuation is in place. These shelters are most frequently organized by local animal control offices or county, or state, animal response teams. When creating your emergency plan, remember to verify that your preferred pet shelter is staffed by qualified animal care personnel with animal handling experience.

  • Be sure to have proof of rabies vaccination .
  • Make time to treat for fleas while at the shelter.
  • Try to keep your animal calm with familiar blankets, toys, and treats.
  • If you think your pet might be sick, talk to a veterinarian.
  • Treat dogs and cats for intestinal parasites while at the shelter – this is especially important for pets under 6 months old.
  • Your animals may be taken to a mobile shelter; not all congregate shelters allow animals inside.

Extra Tips

  • Keep a leash and carrier near the exit.
  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
  • Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet’s veterinary records.
  • Please note, a service animal is not a pet, and all shelters must allow service animals pursuant to the Fair Housing Act.

Helpful Links

Check out some of these websites for more info on how you can prepare your pets for an emergency:


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