RICHMOND, Va. -- Individuals who suffered damage from the severe storms and flooding of November 18-19 and were insured may still be eligible for some federal disaster assistance. The counties of Bland, Buchanan, Giles, Smyth and Tazewell and the independent city of Galax were declared disaster areas by President Bush on December 9, 2003.
"If your insurance policy did not fully cover some of your disaster-related damages or losses, please register for assistance," said Lou Botta, federal coordinating officer for the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Anyone who sustained damages or losses should apply for assistance with FEMA by calling the toll-free application number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The number for those with speech or hearing impairment is TTY 1-800-462-7585. The phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday, and December 25-26, reopening on December 27.
Although people should not wait for an insurance settlement before applying, FEMA will need the insurance settlement information for the damaged property to complete the application.
"Disaster assistance is designed to cover uninsured disaster-related losses," said State Coordinating Officer Michael Cline of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. "However, the law does not allow duplication of services and funds compensated by an insurance claim or provided by another assistance program."
The disaster programs available include grants for temporary housing and repairs to make a home safe and sanitary, low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for homeowners, renters or business owners and other aid programs, including disaster unemployment assistance for self-employed individuals.
FEMA disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate the entire loss.
Uninsured and underinsured losses that may be covered by SBA low-interest loans include debris removal on personal property, disaster-damaged and destroyed fences, tree trimming services, tree replacement, damaged and destroyed sheds and other outbuildings and landscaping losses.
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 the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.