OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The tornadoes, severe storms and flooding that occurred May 3-5 are over, the disaster has been Presidentially declared, and many people who suffered damage and losses are registering for federal and state assistance. What happens next?
People who indicate during the registration process that their homes were destroyed or damaged may qualify for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Housing program.
"This major FEMA program offers short-term rental assistance to homeowners and renters with uninsured losses while they make arrangements to restore their homes or find permanent housing. It also offers assistance with minor emergency home repairs," Federal Coordinating Officer Robert E. Hendrix said. "They are tax-free grants that do not have to be repaid."
Within seven to 10 days of registration, a FEMA inspector will visit the property to verify damages and determine whether the primary residence is livable. The inspector will check the structure, including heating, plumbing, electrical, flooring, drywall, ceilings, floor and foundation, and forward a report to FEMA Human Services.
"Inspectors verify disaster-related damage and losses; they do not determine eligibility for any disaster assistance program. And, no fee is ever involved in the inspection process," State Coordinating Officer Fred Liebe said.
People who are eligible for temporary housing assistance will receive a check in the mail, along with a letter explaining how it must be used. Those whose homes have been made unlivable by the disaster must use their checks for rental assistance. Those whose homes can be made safe and livable with minor, essential repairs must use their checks for this purpose.
Applicants also may receive a separate application from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for a low-interest loan. As the primary source of federal funds for long-term recovery assistance for disaster victims, SBA also sends inspectors to document losses.
Even if applicants do not want or believe they can afford a loan, they must complete and return the loan application to SBA. It is key to referral to other assistance programs. If SBA determines that applicants are unable to repay loans, SBA may then refer them to the other state or federal assistance programs.
Tornado victims in the 16 Oklahoma counties designated to receive disaster housing assistance who have not already done so are encouraged to begin the application process by calling 800-462-9029, 800-462-7585 (TTY) for the speech- and hearing-impaired. Both lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT), seven days a week until further notice.
These counties are Caddo, Canadian, Cleveland, Craig, Creek, Grady, Kingfisher, LeFlore, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Noble, Oklahoma, Ottawa, Pottawatomie and Tulsa.
This Press Release Was Updated on 06/28/05