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Disaster Assistance - How Does it Work?

For Complete Information on Disaster Assistance

Washington. September 19, 1999 - When we say we're from FEMA and we're here to help, we mean it. Individuals, families, farmers and businesses may be eligible for federal assistance if they live or own a business in a county declared a major disaster area by the President.

The flooding of Hurricane Floyd has caused many states to be declared federal disaster areas. For residents in those areas, one telephone call starts the process.

To apply for disaster assistance, call a special toll free telephone number. The number is 1-800-462-9029. The number for speech and hearing impaired individuals is: 1-800-462-7585. Specially trained operators at one of FEMA's National Processing Service Centers process the applications and provide information regarding programs available and phone numbers for local offices handling related disaster programs.

The phone interview is the beginning of the application process. No decision is made about eligibility for one type of aid or other at this point. Callers receive information and applications - not goods or cash - based on these interviews. However, the information provided by the applicant allows the various agencies to make the necessary decisions.

The application process can be speeded up if the following information readily available:

  • Name
  • Current and pre-disaster address (if appropriate)
  • Proof of residency
  • Current telephone numbers
  • Insurance coverage; policy number(s) and agent's name

Applicants are also urged to contact their insurance company and file necessary claims. PLEASE NOTE: Government assistance does not cover damage or losses already covered by private insurance.

Federal disaster aid does not guarantee total recovery from all disaster losses. Assistance is limited to assisting in returning damaged or lost property to its pre-disaster condition or to meeting necessary expenses and serious needs through the following programs. Here is some brief information about federal disaster assistance:

Temporary Housing Assistance: The Temporary Housing Assistance Program assures that people whose homes are damaged by disasters have a safe place to live until repairs can be completed. The type of assistance provided is determined by FEMA, based on criteria which assures that the option chosen is appropriate to the individual's need and can be delivered quickly. The basic forms of temporary housing are rental assistance and essential home repair. This assistance is provided if the applicant's own insurance will not provide for temporary housing assistance.

Disaster Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) can make federally-subsidized loans to repair or replace homes, personal property or businesses which sustained damages not covered by insurance. For many persons this loan program is the primary form of disaster assistance they receive.

Individual and Family Grants: This program, administered by the state but underwritten with 75 percent FEMA funding, can provide grants to meet disaster-related serious needs and necessary expenses not provided for by other programs, insurance or other means. Based on guidelines provided by the Small Business Administration, FEMA makes the determination as to whether the applicant needs to apply for a loan from SBA or if they are automatically referred to the grant program. Among needs that can be met with grant funds are housing repairs, home cleaning and sanitation, necessary household items, replacement of tools of the applicant's trade, clothing, transportation, and medical and dental expenses.

Other key programs an individual assistance designation can provide include emergency loans for farmers from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and tax relief from the IRS.

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