With the Deadline Nearing, Be Wary of Disaster Misinformation

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Release date: 
November 3, 2004
Release Number: 
1558-083

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – During the 45 days since Hurricane Ivan caused destructive flooding in West Virginia, it’s possible that people who may be entitled to disaster aid have picked up information that caused them not to apply, but is mistaken. It’s important that such impressions be corrected before the disaster registration deadline arrives on November 19. (In Ohio, it’s November 18.)

“Word-of-mouth impressions can be wrong,” Lou Botta, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said. “We ask people with any questions at all about eligibility for disaster aid to register and have them answered correctly.”

FEMA supplies these typical examples of disaster aid misinformation:

  • 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 (“under-insured”). That’s why it’s important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company to assess your insurance coverage.
  • 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 got help from the Red Cross, so now I can’t get help from FEMA or the state. Not True: FEMA and the West Virginia Office of Emergency Services coordinate a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.
  • I got help from the Red Cross, so I’m already registered with FEMA. Not True: Registration with the Red Cross is not the same as registration with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must first apply by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.
  • 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. The programs are not “welfare”.
  • I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan. Not true: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility. The SBA will decide whether or not you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a loan, you may be eligible for a grant, but it is necessary to go through the SBA application process first.
  • I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA. Not true: Based on the type and extent of “uninsured” or “underinsured” disaster-related losses and damages, individuals may be eligible for low-interest loans for home or personal property losses.
  • 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 loss. Another type of grant may available to an eligible individual or family with serious, disaster-related needs and necessary expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs. Also a renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Departmen...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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