Common Misunderstandings May Cause Some Victims To Miss Disaster Assistance

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Release date: 
May 29, 2003
Release Number: 
1469-13

Springfield, IL -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors they hear about how to get help and the various assistance programs that are available.
When you have suffered a loss, the last thing you need is misinformation. According to state and federal disaster recovery officials, the best way to avoid that problem is to call and find out for yourself just what kind of assistance is available to you.

Disaster victims who suffered damages and losses because of the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that occurred May 6 through May 11 can apply for assistance immediately by calling the FEMA toll-free application number, 1-800-621-FEMA. Those with a speech or hearing impairment can call TTY 1-800-462-7585. Both lines are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The deadline for applying for assistance is July 14.

Some common misconceptions about disaster assistance are:

I have insurance. There is no other help available to me.
Not True:
Insurance is your main source for money to help put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are many things that insurance does not cover. That is where federal and state disaster programs may be able to help. You may find that you are "underinsured" and disaster assistance can help make up the difference.

I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
Not True:
You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster's inspection before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house safe, secure and sanitary. If you have insurance, however, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work done. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you should call FEMA to apply. To avoid a duplication of benefits, you may need to provide additional insurance information.

I have already repaired my home. It is too late to apply.
Not True:
You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.

I have gotten help from the American Red Cross, so now I can't get help from FEMA or the state.
Not True:
FEMA coordinates a number of programs to help disaster victims. These are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter programs initially provided by the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.

I got help from the American Red Cross, so I'm already registered with FEMA?
Not True:
Registration with the American Red Cross or another voluntary agency is not the same as applying with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling the special toll-free application number - 1-800-621-FEMA (or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired).

I have to be poor to qualify for disaster assistance.
Not True:
Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income. The programs are not "welfare." The kinds of help provided depend on the applicant's circumstances and unmet disaster-related needs.

I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan.
Not True:
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant's eligibility. The SBA will decide whether or not you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a loan, you may be eligible for other as...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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