Myths and Facts about the Disaster Assistance Process

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MYTH: I was told that after June 2 at midnight I can no longer receive assistance from FEMA. 

FACT: Based on the Stafford Act, survivors of presidentially declared disasters have 60 days from the day of the declaration to apply with FEMA for Individual Assistance. For SR 530 Slide survivors, June 2 is the last day to register for Individual Assistance. While registrants have through June 2 at midnight Eastern Daylight Time to apply with FEMA, extenuating circumstances which cause survivors to apply after that date will be considered on a case-by-case basis. It is best to register with FEMA no later than June 2.

June 2 may be the last day to apply with FEMA, but FEMA will continue processing assistance funding for eligible survivors as necessary.

There are three ways to register for disaster assistance through June 2. SR 530 Slide survivors may call FEMA at (800) 621-3362; TTY (800) 462-7585. Registration is also possible online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by mobile device m.fema.gov. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call (800) 621-3362.

MYTH:  FEMA accepts donations.

FACT: FEMA does not operate on financial donations, but rather, disaster assistance is generated from federal tax dollars.

Additionally, FEMA does not accept money from contributors for routing to other agencies or nonprofits. While financial contributions to reputable agencies and nonprofits are still the best means of showing support, those funds should be given directly to the organization of choice.   

MYTH: I heard that FEMA has left the area now that the Disaster Recovery Centers are closed.

FACT: WA EMD and FEMA operated three Disaster Recovery Centers through 6 p.m. on May 10. Since that time, when the centers closed, FEMA has continued to work in the State of Washington on SR 530 Slide recovery. FEMA will remain here in Washington, supporting SR 530 Slide survivors and the Washington Emergency Management Division, for as long as necessary.

Beginning Wednesday, May 14, State of Washington and FEMA representatives will be available to meet one on one with SR 530 Slide survivors at the Snohomish County Family Resource Center in Darrington.

Address:

Snohomish County Family Resource Center
1075 Fir St.
Darrington, WA 98241

Hours of operation:

Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Since Monday, May 12, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has operated a Disaster Loan Outreach Center (DLOC) at this center. SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to qualifying renters, homeowners and owners of businesses of all sizes.

Survivors can also ask questions about the disaster assistance process by calling the Washington State Other Needs Assistance help line, (800) 688-3469, or the FEMA help line: (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585.     

Help is also a mouse click or smartphone screen tap away. Survivors may log onto DisasterAssistance.gov for further information about assistance. On a mobile, Internet-accessible device, use m.fema.gov.

MYTH: Survivors can’t register for FEMA assistance if they have insurance.

FACT: Anyone who is affected by a disaster and lives in a county that is designated in a major disaster declaration may be eligible for FEMA disaster aid for their uninsured or underinsured loss or damage. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance, but some survivors may qualify for FEMA assistance for disaster-related costs not covered by insurance. To be sure, register with FEMA. 

MYTH: Those who receive FEMA assistance cannot receive other types of assistance (from nonprofits, for instance) because it would be considered duplication of benefits. I also heard that if I receive assistance from a nonprofit or some source other than FEMA, that assistance will count against my FEMA grant.

FACT: The amount of assistance provided by nonprofits or sources other than FEMA may or may not impact the total amount of assistance qualifying survivors can receive from FEMA. Those who have questions should call the FEMA help line at (800) 621-3362.

MYTH: Renters can’t get help from FEMA.

FACT: Renters whose residences were made unlivable by a disaster may be eligible for FEMA disaster grants, including rental assistance and other disaster-related needs. 

MYTH: If you receive FEMA assistance, it could reduce your Social Security benefit.

FACT: FEMA assistance, including grants for housing or transportation assistance awarded after the SR 530 Slide, will not affect Social Security payments or payments made through other social assistance programs. According to federal regulation, disaster grants will not affect determination of eligibility for welfare, income assistance or income-tested benefit programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, medical waiver programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. Those who are uncertain whether the disaster assistance they receive may impact benefits they receive from other assistance programs may contact the caseworker for the specific program that is in question.

MYTH: Only businesses can get low-interest disaster loans from SBA.

FACT: SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations for disaster damages not fully covered by insurance or other compensation. Eligible homeowners may receive up to $200,000 for home repair or replacement of primary residences and eligible homeowners and renters may receive up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property.

Owners of small businesses may also apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). Even small business owners who did not experience physical loss due to the disaster may be eligible for an EIDL.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers EIDLs to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.

Interest rates can be as low as 2.25 percent for homeowners and renters, four (4) percent for businesses, and 2.625 percent for private, nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

MYTH: FEMA sent me a letter stating I am not eligible for Individual Assistance. My neighbor told me that is the last word, and that there is nothing else I can do.

FACT: A determination letter from FEMA stating an applicant is not eligible for Individual Assistance may be just a step in the process. Receiving such a letter does not necessarily mean an applicant is not eligible for disaster aid, even when the letter states “ineligible” or “incomplete.” It can be an indication that further information is needed, or that the applicant’s insurance claim needs to be settled first before further disaster assistance can be considered. You may be able to appeal that initial decision by supplying more information about your situation. Those with questions may call the FEMA help line at (800) 621-3362.

For more information on SR 530 Slide recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4168 or visit the WA EMD site at www.emd.wa.gov.

Last Updated: 
05/14/2014 - 17:58
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