Most federal disaster assistance programs are designed to meet emergency needs in the form of disaster grants for immediate housing requirements and emergency repairs. These programs are meant to help people begin their recovery; they are not designed to return people's lives to their pre-disaster conditions.
By contrast, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) help homeowners, renters and business owners repair or replace their disaster-related damages. SBA is the primary source of long-term disaster recovery loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes.
Understanding the steps of the federal/state recovery process can help people reduce the confusion brought on by disaster, sort out the information available, and make the decisions required to begin rebuilding lives.
President Bush issued a major disaster declaration on July 11 for Individual Assistance in 34 counties initially. Joint damage assessments were requested by the state and six additional counties were added on July 17. Similar procedures were followed last week, which led to the August 18 addition of Lake, Porter and Vanderburgh counties. The declaration covers eligible damages that occurred between July 4 and August 6 as a result of the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding. The deadline to call and apply is Tuesday, September 9.
APPLYING FOR FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE
- The only way to apply for federal assistance is to call the special toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with hearing or speech impairment. Both phone lines are available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and multilingual operators are available when necessary.
- Your call is confidential under the Privacy Act of 1974, and the information will be used only to determine what type of assistance is most appropriate.
- This call is your application and usually takes only 15-20 minutes to complete. You will be asked general information about your income, your insurance and how badly your residence or business was damaged. You should give details about your housing needs.
- You will be given an application number, which will help locate your application in the system in the future. Write this number down so you will have it handy.
THE ASSISTANCE PROCESS
- Within a few days, a FEMA inspector will call you to arrange an appointment to visit your damaged home or apartment.
- The inspection is mandatory. Before an application can be completed and approved, the location must be inspected to verify the nature and extent of damage suffered by those who have registered for federal disaster assistance.
- You will be asked to sign a document stating that you were lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of the disaster. You will need to present proper identification.
- Inspectors will be able to show you official identification to prove their identity. If an inspector asking for access to your home cannot show you a photo ID, do not let them into your home and call your local law enforcement agency. Damage inspectors do not recommend repairs or charge for their services.
- If you qualify...