Dispelling Disaster Assistance Myths and Rumors
ANDOVER, Mass. – Although more than 20,000 residents in Eastern and Central Massachusetts have registered for state/federal assistance to date, state and federal officials overseeing the recovery effort are concerned that many more eligible households are missing out on needed assistance.
The officials note that registering for assistance is the single most effective step any disaster survivor can take on the road to recovery. Registration allows applicants to keep all their assistance options open while the mounting costs of personal disaster recovery such as insurance shortfalls, hidden structural damage or mold infestation are revealed.
To encourage residents, who may have misconceptions about eligibility, processes and programs, the officials offered answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about possible impediments to registration.
Here are the answers to the main questions survivors ask:
– If I have insurance, can I still apply for FEMA assistance for uncovered losses? Yes. While insurance is your main source of funding to put your life back in order, there
are many things insurance does not cover. Some individuals may find they are ’underinsured’ and disaster assistance may be able to help fill the gap.
– Do I have to wait for an insurance adjustor or inspector to visit before cleaning up? No. You should begin cleaning your home or business as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Remember to take photos and keep records of your clean-up efforts and expenses.
– How can I easily register with FEMA? Registration takes about 20 minutes, either by phone or on the Internet. Applicants should register by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 (TTY) for people with speech or hearing disabilities from 7a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Multilingual assistance is available. Applicants can also register online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov/.
– After I register, how can I track the progress of my application? Stay in touch with FEMA either by visiting a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to talk with specialists in person or by choosing the helpline option available at the registration number above. You will receive an individual registration number when you register.
FEMA also has multilingual people to assist you in Spanish, Portuguese, Creole, Mandarin Chinese, French and other languages.
– What are the benefits of visiting a DRC? When you visit a DRC after registering, you will be able to speak with disaster recovery specialists about your particular circumstances. Representatives from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other state and federal agencies, and representatives from some volunteer agencies will be there to answer your questions.
– Are loans from the SBA for homes as well as for businesses? Yes. The SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to renters, homeowners and businesses for their “uninsured” or “underinsured” disaster-related losses. In a presidential declaration, the SBA is often the primary source of federal financial assistance. The SBA has representatives in all Disaster Recovery Centers.
– I want a grant, not a loan. Do I still need to fill out an SBA disaster home loan application? It’s a good idea. FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance program is designed to help meet serious, disaster-related needs. Homeowners and renters who do not qualify for a loan may be considered for other forms of assistance. However, referral to some other programs cannot be made until the SBA loan application is completed, returned and evaluated. So you will benefit from completing and returning your SBA disaster loan application.
– If I rent an apartment, can I get help to replace my disaster-damaged possessions? Possibly. A renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or a grant from FEMA to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing needs if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Another type of grant may be available to eligible individuals or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs.
– Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive Individual Assistance? Possibly. To be eligible for assistance from FEMA, you must be a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. A qualified alien generally includes individuals who are lawful permanent residents (possessing an alien registration receipt card commonly called a “Green Card”), or those with legal status due to asylum, parole (admission into the U.S. for humanitarian purposes), withholding of deportation, or those who are refugees or victims of domestic violence.
– I am an undocumented immigrant, do I qualify? Possibly. You may apply for Individual Assistance on behalf of your child who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. Or another adult household member may qualify for household assistance if he or she is a documented immigrant. You may also be eligible under many different programs run by state, local and voluntary agencies for various types of assistance. An undocumented immigrant may be eligible for short-term, non-cash emergency aid provided by FEMA.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders and to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.