St. Paul, MN -- People who suffered damages from the recent storms and tornadoes in disaster--declared counties have until July 31 to call and apply for federal--state disaster assistance, said officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Minnesota Division of Emergency Management (DEM).
"The incident period of the disaster was reopened to include damages from the storms and tornadoes occurring on June 11 and 13. Now we've extended the application deadline to allow people a reasonable period of time to apply for assistance," Jim Roche, federal coordinating officer, said. "If you had damage or uninsured losses and have not yet applied, call FEMA's toll--free registration line -- 1--800--462--9029." The TTY number for individuals who are speech-- or hearing--impaired is 800--462--7585.
Disaster assistance can include funding for temporary housing, U.S. Small Business Administration low--interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property, disaster unemployment assistance and grants for serious needs and necessary expenses not met by other programs.
"After you register for disaster assistance, an inspector may call you directly to make an appointment to inspect the damages," Roche said. "We advise applicants to ask for identification when an inspector arrives. FEMA inspectors all have badges with photo identification.
When it comes time to repair or rebuild your home, take care in choosing a contractor. "You don't want to be a fraud victim as well as a disaster victim," Kevin Leuer, director and state coordinating officer, said. "Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous operators who try to take advantage of others' misfortunes."
Before hiring a contractor, homeowners should follow these guidelines: Get a written estimate; ask for references; obtain a contract; ask for written guarantees; pay by check and avoid on--the--spot cash payments. If you have concerns about a contractor, you can call the Minnesota State Attorney General's Consumer Division at 1 800 657--3787.