Common Misunderstandings May Cause Some Victims To Miss Disaster Assistance

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Release date: 
September 27, 2004
Release Number: 
1548-008

BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, people who suffered loss or damage need all the help they can get. Unfortunately, they may be misled by half-truths and rumors about how to get that help and the various assistance programs that are available. Individuals and households who suffered damages and losses because of Hurricane Ivan can find out what kind of assistance is available by calling the FEMA toll-free resistration number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with speech or hearing impairment can call TTY 1-800-462-7585. Both lines are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, until further notice.

Government disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate you for your entire loss. If you have insurance, the government may help pay for basic needs not covered under your insurance policy. Residents should contact their insurance agent first, then if they have unmet needs they should call FEMA to apply. If insured residents do not first file insurance claims, they may not be eligible for certain types of assistance. Some disaster aid does not have to be paid back, while other forms of help may come in the form of loans.

The FEMA representative will explain the details to you when you call.

Some clarifications for common misconceptions about disaster assistance:

I have insurance. I hear there still may be other help available to me.
True. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are many things that insurance does not cover. That is where federal disaster programs may be able to help.

I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
Not True. You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster's inspection before applying for assistance. 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. To avoid a duplication of benefits, you may need to provide additional insurance information.

I already repaired my home. It is too late to register with FEMA.
Not True. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance. You have until November 15, 2004 to apply.

I registered with FEMA almost a year ago. I can still submit my insurance information.
True. You have up to twelve months from the date your registered to submit insurance documentation.

There is nothing I can do if FEMA determines I am ineligible for assistance.
Not True. Both insured and uninsured applicants who are not satisfied with FEMA’s decision about that assistance may file an appeal, explaining in writing why they feel the decision is wrong. Appeals must be filed with any new or additional information within 60 days following notification from FEMA.

I got help from the American Red Cross, but I still need to apply to FEMA if I need assistance.
True. FEMA coordinates 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, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies. Registration with the Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as applying with FEMA.

I have to be poor to qualify for disaster assistance.
Not True. 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 disaster-related needs.

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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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