Baltimore, MD -- In the confusion that follows a disaster, rumors and misconceptions may add to the problems many disaster-affected Marylanders are having as they begin their recovery.
Recently, rumors that receiving federal or state disaster assistance will affect Social Security checks or Medicaid and Medicare benefits have caused some individuals to not apply for assistance. The fact is disaster grants and low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration have no effect on federal benefits and programs for which individuals are currently entitled.
Other misconceptions have also surfaced. For example, some individuals may choose not to apply for disaster assistance so that there will be money available for those in greater need than themselves. The fact is when the President declares a disaster, Congress makes available adequate funding to cover all damages that are eligible under federal programs. If you have received damage from Hurricane Isabel, no matter how large (or small), you should register for assistance. No one will be denied help because of lack of money. There are sufficient resources available to help anyone with Isabel-related storm damage.
Apply for assistance through the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) toll-free teleregistration number, 1 800 621 FEMA (3362), or for the speech- or hearing-impaired, TTY 800 462 7585. The hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
"When you have suffered a loss, the last thing you need is rumor or misinformation causing confusion," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Lokey. "The best thing a disaster victim can do is call FEMA's toll-free registration number to learn for yourself what kind of assistance may be available to you and how to access it."
The toll-free hotline for Maryland Department of Human Resources is 1 888 756 7836, for individuals who may need assistance from local or state departments or agencies. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday. Those with questions about their insurance may call the Maryland Insurance Administration at 1 800 492 6116.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.