RICHMOND, Va. -- The word is out that disaster assistance is only a phone call away, but some victims of the November 18-19 flooding in the western portions of the Commonwealth of Virginia are unaware of what happens after they call the toll-free registration number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), (TTY: 1-800-462-7585).
“When applicants understand the process, they feel a lot more relaxed and able to start the recovery process,” said Lou Botta, federal coordinating officer for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
When those with disaster losses call the toll-free line, they are assigned a registration identification number for future reference in identifying their case. In most cases, a FEMA inspector will telephone to make an appointment to visit the damaged home or apartment and assess the losses.
The following are points to remember during inspections:
- Do not rely on clothing insignias alone for identification. All inspectors wear a current photo identification badge.
- All FEMA inspectors carry a hand-held computer. It has information about the person whose household is being inspected. The computer is only for FEMA programs and has no other use to anyone else.
- Applicants will be asked for some proof of occupancy and owners must show proof of ownership.
- Inspectors do not determine any dollar amounts. They only inspect and document reported damage.
- Inspectors do not carry money or ask for money.
After applicants have called the registration number, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may send a loan application packet. In order to be eligible for other types of assistance, including grants, it is important to complete and return the SBA packet. Help in completing the SBA loan application is available at the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs).
Homeowners and renters whose primary residences cannot be lived in may be eligible for funds to pay for temporary rental housing. Homeowners may be offered funds to make temporary repairs so the home is livable. Homeowners and renters may be eligible for funds to pay for other serious, disaster-caused needs including uncovered medical, dental or transportation expenses.
The SBA may provide low-interest, long-term loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes that are not fully insured. SBA loans cover such disaster-related expenses as debris removal on personal property, damaged and destroyed fences, tree trimming services, tree replacement, damaged and destroyed sheds and other outbuilding and landscaping losses. Applicants need not wait for an insurance settlement to apply with SBA.
Those who need more information or help with their application can:
- Consult their Applicant’s Handbook
- Call the Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), (TTY: 1-800-462-7585)
- Go to a DRC for help. For the location of the nearest DRC, call the helpline or go to www.vaemergency.com
For those eligible for assistance, a check should arrive within seven to ten days after the inspection.
Applicants who receive letters declaring them ineligible for FEMA disaster assistance can get an explanation or more information by referring to the handbook, the helpline or a DRC. Instructions for appealing a decision can be found in the Applicant’s Handbook. An appeal must be made in writing within 60 days of the date of the decision letter.
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 t...