OTTAWA, IL -- Community Relations specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and county emergency management directors to reach out to people affected by the severe storms and tornadoes that began on
Teams are canvassing communities in the disaster-declared counties of Kankakee, LaSalle, Putnam and Will offering individuals and small business owners information about available disaster assistance programs, including grants to help pay for temporary disaster housing needs; grants for essential repairs needed to make a residence safe, sanitary and functional; low-interest loans to repair or replace damaged property; and replacement grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs.
"We rely on our community relations staff not only to get the word out, but also to find out first hand the problems that communities and individuals in those communities are facing," Lee Champagne, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer, said.
Team members are going door-to-door to talk with individuals who have suffered damage or loss. They will also meet with representatives of community-based agencies, community leaders and public officials. When community relations staff identify unmet needs, information will be communicated to the state or federal staff best able to respond.
"We are making every attempt to inform disaster victims about the benefits available through a disaster declaration,” William C. Burke, IEMA state coordinating officer for the disaster recovery operation, said. “The Community Relations teams may discover that effort will require special means of communication and/or special types of assistance."
Team members will be reminding individuals that they can begin the disaster assistance process by calling FEMA’s toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For those with speech or hearing impairment, the special TTY number to call is 1-800-462-7585. Both lines are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice and multilingual operators are available to take your call.
Homeowners, renters, and business owners who have called to apply could hear soon from damage inspectors and loss verifyers. FEMA schedules inspections to verify losses within a few days after residents have filed applications. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will also inspect an applicant's damages, after the SBA has received a completed loan application.
“You should also remember that federal employees and federal contract workers do not charge victims for their services,” Champagne said. “If someone posing as a federal employee or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their vehicle number to your local police department.”
Federal employees carry official photo identification and applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee but does not produce identification residents are urged to ask to see it.
An inspector first examines any structural damage to your house, then assesses damage to appliances, such as the washer, dryer, refrigerator and stove. The inspector also reports serious needs, such as lost or damaged clothing. Homeowners should identify all known damages and tell the inspector if they have a septic system or a well.
For eligibility purposes, property owners should be able to show proof of ownership and occupancy to the inspector. Renters also need to show proof of occupancy. If insurance papers are available, residents should show them to the inspector.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. F...