ORLANDO, Fla. -- Only one week remains for Florida residents and business owners who sustained damage from Hurricane Wilma to apply for disaster assistance. The deadline to apply is January 5.
“For individuals who have already applied, their cases will continue to be processed,” Justin DeMello, federal coordinating officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said. “We want people to understand that Thursday, January 5th, is merely the end of the application period, which started October 24th when President Bush issued a major disaster declaration.”
Loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for disaster-related losses to real and personal property and businesses of all sizes must also be submitted by that date. SBA officials encourage anyone who has received a disaster loan application to turn it in as soon as possible.
“Even if you have insurance, you should apply by January 5th if your home or business suffered damage from Hurricane Wilma,” Craig Fugate, state coordinating officer of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT), said. “You may find that you still have needs after your insurance settlement and you may qualify for financial assistance in the form of a low-interest disaster loan or grant.”
To date, a total of $278,561,915 in grants has been approved for 196,791 eligible individuals impacted by Hurricane Wilma. In addition, the SBA has approved 387 low-interest disaster loans for $21,787,800.
Federal and state disaster recovery officials urge those who have not done so to apply as soon as possible. There are two easy ways to begin the application process. Residents may call FEMA’s special toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech or hearing impairment. Both numbers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and multilingual operators are also available to answer your call. Residents with Internet access have the option to apply on the agency’s Web site at www.fema.gov. Valuable recovery information is also available on the Web site.
Disaster officials also stated that residents waiting for a final insurance settlement should contact the FEMA Helpline at the same numbers above if their claim is paid or for any other updates to their claim information. If there have been changes to contact information, for instance, applicants should call the Helpline right away to ensure they receive their assistance as quickly as possible.
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. For more information visit www.fema.gov.
The State Emergency Response Team (SERT) is a collaboration of Florida’s state agencies led by the state coordinating officer. SERT’s mission is to ensure that Florida is prepared to respond to emergencies, recover from them, and mitigate their impacts. Visit www.floridadisaster.org for the latest information on the hurricane relief efforts.