INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As the August 2 deadline to apply for disaster assistance nears, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors they hear about how to get help and the various assistance programs that are available.
“When you have suffered a loss, the last thing you need is misinformation” said Justo “Tito” Hernandez, federal coordinating officer for the recent disaster. “The best way to avoid that problem is to call and find out for yourself just what kind of assistance is available to you.”
Some facts about disaster assistance are:
- Registration with the American Red Cross or other agency is not the same as applying with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling the toll-free application number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech or hearing impairment.
- Insurance is your main source for money to help put your life back in order after a disaster. However there are many things that insurance does not cover. That is where federal and state disaster programs may be able to help. You may find that you are “underinsured” and disaster assistance can help make up the difference. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.
- You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster’s inspection before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house safe, sanitary and functional. However, if you have insurance, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you should call FEMA to apply.
- FEMA and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) coordinate a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.
- You do not need to have a low income to qualify for assistance. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage regardless of income. The programs are not "welfare." The kinds of help provided depend on the applicant's circumstances and unmet needs.
- Don’t let the name fool you. You do not have to be a business to apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. In a presidential declaration, SBA is the primary source of financial assistance. Renters and homeowners may be eligible for low-interest loans for home or personal property losses, based on the type and extent of “uninsured” or “underinsured” disaster-related losses.
- The SBA, which handles low-interest disaster loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant's eligibility. The SBA will process your loan application to a decision. If they are unable to approve you loan application, you may be eligible for other assistance, but it is necessary to go through the SBA application process first. SBA application packets must be in by the August 2 deadline.
- A renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or a cash grant to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing needs if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Another type of grant may be available to eligible individuals or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs.
Disaster victims who suffered damages and losses because of the storms, tornadoes and flooding from May 25 through June 25 have until August 2 to apply for assistance by calling FEMA toll-free application number, 1-800-621-F...