BATON ROUGE, La. -- Officials urge individuals and businesses affected by Hurricane Rita in the Louisiana parishes of Acadia, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Mary and Vermilion, to register for assistance with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Additional parishes may be designated for assistance at a later date after further evaluation. People who sustained damage from Rita should register even if their parish has not been designated for individual assistance.
Registering for aid for Hurricane Rita is separate from any past registration for Hurricane Katrina. People with damage by both hurricanes need to register again to receive aid for Rita.
The FEMA toll-free registration number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). People with a speech- or hearing-impairment can call TTY 1-800-462-7585. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.
Due to the large number of people still registering for assistance as a result of Hurricane Katrina, one of the best ways to avoid a telephone busy signal is to register over the Internet. People can complete an application by visiting FEMA's online Individual Assistance Center at www.fema.gov.
The application process takes about 20 minutes. FEMA representatives encourage applicants to collect the following information ahead of time to speed the process:
- Telephone number where they can be reached
- Address at the time of disaster and the address where they are staying if they have not been able to return to their residence
- Their Social Security number
- Good directions to the location of the damaged property
- The name of their insurance company and policy number
- Bank account information (account number and routing number to receive a direct deposit)
Assistance through FEMA will not make victims financially whole, but it may help pay for repairs or can pay for temporary housing while people plan what to do next. Sometimes grants are available for personal property not covered by insurance.
Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may also be available to help homeowners, renters, business owners and non-profit organizations that suffered losses from this disaster.
People without telephone or Internet can access those services for FEMA registration at one of the Disaster Recovery Centers located around the state. At the centers, applicants can meet face-to-face with representatives of state, federal and voluntary agencies. Customer service representatives from the SBA are also there to answer questions and provide recovery information. In addition, written materials about various assistance programs are available for individuals and business owners.
SBA is the federal government's primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts, and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.