People often find that a major disaster can inflict damage long after the storms have passed. Jobs are lost. Day-to-day life is disrupted. Communities struggle to rebuild. And frequently, survivors sink into depression or emotional turmoil.
The fact that all of these are common post-disaster experiences doesn’t make it any easier for people to cope with them. However, a presidential disaster declaration unlocks specialized programs aimed at helping survivors get back on their feet.
For instance, if you lost your job because of the severe storms and tornadoes May 18 through June 2, and you live in one of the designated counties (Canadian, Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma or Pottawatomie) you may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA).
DUA is a federally funded program administered by the state. It may be available for a variety of disaster-related circumstances. You may have been self-employed, and the tornado caused you to lose your customers. Maybe the storms destroyed your employer’s place of business—and your employment. Please don’t wait to find out whether you qualify. To apply, call the state Unemployment Insurance Center at 800-555-1554. The deadline for DUA applications is
June 21, 2013.
If you have disaster-related legal needs, you may find help free of charge through the Disaster Legal Services program. Set up by the Oklahoma Bar Association, it’s a special service to help people affected by the May 18-June 2 storms and tornadoes. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is partnering with Oklahoma Bar Association volunteers to offer this type of assistance. The Disaster Legal Assistance number is 866-341-8416. Or you can contact Legal Aid at 888-534-5243.
Another program can help you recover from the emotional toll of a disaster. It’s normal to feel angry, anxious or sad after experiencing tornadoes as powerful and destructive as the ones that swept through central Oklahoma. But if those thoughts and emotions linger, you can find help.
A toll-free Disaster Distress Helpline, 800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling from trained and caring professionals. This free, confidential, and multilingual crisis support service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is also available via SMS—text "TalkWithUs" to 66746. You can call 2-1-1 for referrals to the closest crisis centers. In addition, several churches and nonprofits such as the American Red Cross offer counseling and support in the aftermath of a disaster.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services and Crisis Counseling are three of many programs that exist to support disaster survivors. You can find out more about available disaster assistance by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). Individuals and business owners in the designated counties can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone at m.fema.gov. If you use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services, call 800-621-3362.
When you call, you may ask for the location of a disaster recovery center in your area. At a disaster recovery center, you can meet personally with disaster specialists from state and federal agencies. They can address your individual situation and discuss our programs with you.
As you embark on the road to recovery, consider our disaster programs as tools to help empower you and your family.