Federal/State Team Makes Disaster Assistance Easy

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Release date: 
April 30, 2004
Release Number: 

Note to Editors: Federal and state agencies are working in partnership to help Illinois residents following the recent severe storms and tornadoes. They need simple, easy to understand information, which answers their most basic questions. 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.

OTTAWA, Ill. - Most federal disaster assistance programs are designed to meet emergency needs in the form of disaster grants for immediate housing requirements, emergency repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. 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 disaster loans are the primary source of Federal assistance in the long-term recovery efforts of homeowners, renters and businesses.

Insurance is the best protection against any disaster losses. Those who suffered damages and have insurance should contact their insurance agent immediately. Then, if they find that they are underinsured or have unmet needs, they should call and apply 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. daily 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.


  • Within a few days, a FEMA inspector will call you to arrange an appointment to visit your damaged home or apartment. 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.

  • For those with insurance, FEMA inspections are not necessary until after your insurance settlement is complete and underinsured or uninsured eligible losses are identified. You still may be eligible for other types of disaster assistance, such as Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling and Disaster Tax Assistance. Information about these programs is available at Disaster Recovery Centers or by calling the toll-free application numbers.

  • At the inspection, 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 l...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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