LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Applying for or receiving state and federal financial assistance to recover from a disaster will not cause elderly evacuees to sacrifice Social Security benefits, pay additional taxes or give up income-based benefit programs.
Some older evacuees have expressed this concern in recent days, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
A state or federal grant does not add to their taxable income as long as the grant is given as assistance to recover from a disaster. This means that grants given by FEMA to elderly disaster victims for housing will not add to older recipients' income and will not require them to repay their Social Security benefit. FEMA housing grants will not alter income levels to the point where older evacuees are no longer eligible for Medicaid, welfare assistance, food stamps or Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). FEMA grants do not have to be repaid.
People who experienced storm damage must register with FEMA to find out about services that may be available to them. It is vital to apply for an SBA loan even if they do not qualify. Applying for a loan enables the affected resident to be made eligible for other programs; to do so, the SBA loan application must be completed and submitted first.
Senior citizens are urged to complete SBA loan applications to be considered for recovery grants and low interest loans. As these programs are available for a limited time, all evacuees are encouraged to complete the application as soon as possible.
The Hazard Mitigation Grants Program (HMGP) which makes homes and businesses safer from future disasters is no longer considered a taxable improvement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These grants are entirely separate and are not awarded to individuals registering for disaster assistance. Residents must contact their local officials.
Elderly disaster victims can call FEMA to find out more about housing grants and other programs at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) , or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for people who have speech or hearing impairments. Lines are open 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Hurricane victims may also register online at www.fema.gov or they can get assistance by registering at any Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).
Victims of the hurricanes can also contact the SBA to find out how to apply for a loan at 1-800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster . For more information about eldercare issues, call the national referral service at 1-800-677-1116.
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.
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.