David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

Tropical Weather North Carolina (copy) (copy)

Hurricanes and other powerful storms can cause some serious roof damage. South Carolina has a program to ease the financial sting. File/The Star-News via AP

If you blinked, you would have missed it.

On July 1, the Department of Insurance resumed taking applications for SC Safe Home grants — generous funding with no income restrictions that can help pay for new, stronger roofs on owner-occupied single-family homes in coastal counties. 

All the money was claimed by the following afternoon, and applications were halted after more than 300 requests had been received.

The good news is, there will be another application period in December. I'll tell you how to be ready, and recap how this grant program can be a great financial assist for homeowners in these 11 counties: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Marion and Williamsburg.

While it's frustrating to see this valuable program exhaust six months of funding in a single day, I am glad to see that people have become aware of Safe Home. 

The program was part of a package of 2007 state insurance reforms and initiatives, and for the first several years, much of the available funding for Safe Home went unclaimed.

I've been writing about the grant program for at least five years — partly because I learned firsthand how much money it could save a homeowner. I put a new, stronger roof on my house in 2015, and a Safe Home grant and the associated tax benefits covered more than half the expense.

Now, the state gets a flood of applications whenever funds become available, typically when the fiscal year starts in July.

Demand is higher than ever partly because the state changed the rules in 2017, eliminating a limit on how much a home can be worth in order for the owner to receive funding. Anyone who owns and occupies a single-family home in a coastal-region county — but not a mobile home — can get a grant up to $4,000, or $5,000 if they have a moderate to low income.

Safe Home roof replacements come with state tax credits and mandatory insurance discounts on "wind and hail" policies, too. Those are worth up to $1,000, based on 25% of the home retrofit expenses, and up to $1,500, rebating the sales tax paid on materials purchased for the job. 

The problem Safe Home has is, the state only has about $2.2 million in funding each year for those grants, which are meant to help homeowners make their houses more hurricane-resistant.

The grants aren't just for roof replacements. They can be used to pay for other home-strengthening retrofits, such as hurricane shutters, but I'm focusing on roofs because every homeowner will need a new roof at some time.

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The Department of Insurance has online tutorials on how to apply, at doi.sc.gov, and can also be reached for Safe Home information by calling 803-737-6087 or emailing scsafehome@doi.sc.gov.

In mid-December the department plans to accept another round of Safe Home applications. There will be about $1 million available. Consider applying if:

  • You live in an eligible county, in an insured single-family home that you own.
  • You have a roof that's due for replacement, but is not in "extreme" need of repair. Safe Home grants can't be used for repairs.
  • You want a stronger, more hurricane-resistant roof, which will lower your home insurance bill.
  • You're willing to deal with some red tape in order to save thousands of dollars.

When applications reopen, the money will go fast — probably in a matter of hours. To be ready, sign up for notifications on the Department of Insurance website, and familiarize yourself with the rules and application procedures ahead of time.

Then, pay close attention to your emails in December, and apply as soon as applications reopen.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.