BATON ROUGE, La. -- Disaster officials are urging residents of disaster-designated parishes in Louisiana to take advantage of the 60 additional days they've been given to register for federal and state financial assistance to help them recover from uninsured or under-insured losses caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The extension to March 11 was granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"As long as we continue to hear from people who need disaster assistance, we want to make it available," said Scott Wells, the official in charge of federal recovery operations. "We are renewing our efforts to identify and reach people who may not have registered for various reasons and need more time to apply." To date, FEMA has received more than 1.3 million applications from Louisianians.
FEMA's toll-free registration line continues to take calls around the clock from affected residents of Louisiana whether they remain in their home state or have evacuated to other parts of the country. FEMA also has an online assistance center at www.fema.gov where individuals can register for assistance and check on the status of their applications.
For those wishing to apply by phone, the toll-free number is 800-621-FEMA (3362) . Speech- or hearing-impaired applicants can call the TTY number 800-462-7585 . The lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and multilingual operators are available to take calls.
"There is no reason for anyone who sustained hurricane losses not to make that call and get whatever assistance they are eligible to receive," said State Coordinating Officer Col. Jeff Smith.
Officials say in every disaster there are people who don't register because they have home insurance and don't think they are eligible. Many later find damage that was uninsured or under-insured and realize they've missed their chance at assistance because registration has closed.
Callers will need to supply the following information:
- Current phone number
- Address at the time of the disaster and current address if different
- Social Security number
- A general list of damages and losses suffered
- Directions to the damaged property
- Insurance policy number or company and agent's name, if insured
- General financial information
Once registered, an applicant may be eligible for temporary housing assistance -- such as financial aid for rent or emergency repair grants of up to $5,200 for homeowners with uninsured or underinsured disaster-related damages to their primary residence -- as well as other disaster-related expenses not met through insurance or other programs.
Officials also reinforced that individuals seeking assistance from FEMA do not need to complete a loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in order to be considered for temporary housing assistance. FEMA will process applications for housing assistance regardless of whether the applicant has applied for an SBA loan.
An applicant must complete an SBA loan application to be eligible for additional assistance under the part of the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses. Even so, applicants who do not meet a certain income threshold may be excused from this requirement. In addition, there are other ONA grants such as public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses that do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan to be eligible.
Voluntary agencies also work with individuals and families on needs not fully met by state programs, FEMA or SBA.