BEVERLY, Mass. - Recovery officials said that some common misunderstandings about disaster aid may deprive eligible individuals and households of vital aid from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“The last thing you need in a disaster is misinformation,” said Federal Coordinating Officer James N. Russo. “And the best way to avoid that problem is to call and ask what kind of assistance is available to you.”
Residents of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Worcester counties with flood damage or losses are urged to call 800-621-3362 (FEMA) to register for assistance. Those with a speech or hearing impairment can call (TTY) 800-462-7585. The lines are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday until further notice.
State Coordinating Officer Cristine McCombs said, “Too often, residents decide not to apply based on rumors about non-existent rules including damage thresholds, income limits or other registration criteria. And if you don’t register, we won’t be able to help you.”
McCombs encouraged all homeowners, renters and business with any flood-related damage or loss to register immediately. “At your convenience you’ll be able to meet with an inspector, show him or her the damage, and then and only then will your eligibility for losses be determined,” McCombs said.
The officials clarified some of the most common misconceptions heard in past disasters:
- I have insurance, so there is no other help available. Not True: FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, but you may be eligible for help with losses not covered or damage in excess of your coverage (“underinsured”). That’s why it is important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company on your claim.
- I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance. Not True: Don’t wait for an adjuster before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house livable. However, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work.
- I already repaired my home. I don't need to apply. Not True: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance.
- I have to be poor to qualify for disaster aid. Not True: The kinds of help provided depend on each applicant's circumstances. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income.
- I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan. Not True: If you lived in a declared county you are eligible to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), with interest rates as low as 3.125 percent for homes and 2.9 percent for businesses. If SBA cannot approve your loan application you may be referred to other agencies for additional assistance, but that can't happen if you don't return your application.
- I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA. Not True: The SBA low-interest loan is the primary source of federal assistance for long-term recovery for homeowners, renters and business owners. SBA loans may cover uninsured or underinsured losses for real estate damages as well as personal property damages.
- I rent an apartment. I can't get help. Not True: There are several types of assistance available to renters. One type of grant may help renters with temporary housing needs if they have to move because of disaster damage or ...