CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors about how to get help and the various assistance programs that are available. When residents suffer losses, the last thing they need is misinformation.
According to state and federal disaster recovery officials, there are two easy ways to begin the application process. Applicants may call FEMA's toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech or hearing impaired, available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators also are available to answer calls. Residents with Internet access can register on the agency's Web site at http://www.fema.gov/, where valuable recovery information also is available. The deadline for residents in Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake Counties to apply is Sept. 30, 2006.
Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:
I have insurance. Is there other help available to me?
Yes. I nsurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster, but there are many things that insurance does not cover. This is where federal disaster programs may be able to help. You may find that you are "underinsured" and disaster assistance can help make up the difference.
Do I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance?
No. You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster's inspection before applying for assistance or beginning repairs needed to make your house safe, sanitary and functional; however, if you have insurance, you should find out what your policy covers. Be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, call FEMA to apply. Initially, you may not be eligible for assistance until you are able to provide additional insurance settlement information. This is necessary to avoid a duplication of benefits.
I already repaired my home. It is too late to apply?
No. Yo u could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.
Do I need to make a reservation at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance?
No. There are two ways to apply for assistance. You may call FEMA's toll-free number at 1-800-621- FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech or hearing impaired from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Individuals with Internet can apply on the agency's Web site at http://www.fema.gov. Disaster Recovery Centers are designed to provide additional information or assistance. No appointment is necessary and you may visit any DRC even if it is not located in your town or county. SBA officials also are available to assist with low-interest loan applications for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses of all sizes.
I got help from the American Red Cross; can I still apply to FEMA if I need assistance?
Yes. FEMA coordinates a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing, and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies. Registration with the Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as applying with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling the special toll-free application number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech or hearing impairment.
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