EL PASO, Texas -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors they hear about how to get help and the various assistance programs that are available. When you have suffered a loss, the last thing you need is misinformation.
The first thing that people who sustained damages or incurred losses from the flooding should do is apply for disaster assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362 ) or logging onto www.fema.gov. The number for those with speech or hearing impairment is 1-800-462-7585 .
Disaster assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other sources. Low-interest disaster loans from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also are available for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained losses not covered by insurance.
Those with questions should check online at www.fema.gov, visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY 1-800-462-7585) .
Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions received by the Helpline:
How will I receive any information mailed to me if I am unable to return home right away?
FEMA works closely with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to see that mail gets delivered to its intended recipient. However, it is each individual's responsibility to make sure that FEMA and the USPS have current mailing information on record. It is also helpful to keep FEMA apprised of any changes to your contact information.
Do I have to visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to receive federal disaster assistance?
No, the two ways to apply for disaster assistance are online or by phone. Call 1-800-621-FEMA ( TTY 1-800-462-7585 ) or log onto www.fema.gov. DRCs provide a one-stop shop for victims to talk with disaster recovery officials about services and programs. You may visit any DRC even if it is not located in your town. SBA officials are also available to assist with low-interest loan applications for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses of all sizes.
I don't really want a loan, do I have to fill out the SBA application I received?
FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA customer service representatives to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses . Applicants may be approved for either low-interest loans or grants.
I was told I am eligible for financial assistance but I have not yet received payment. Can I still expect to receive it?
Applications are being processed as quickly as possible. If you have changed your address, make sure you have updated your information with FEMA by calling the Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA or TTY 1-800-462-7585.
I know of others in my neighborhood, city or state who received help from FEMA, however I was told I have insufficient damages. Does FEMA use the same criteria when considering damages for everyone?
FEMA reviews each applicant's case individually and applies the same eligibility criteria. If you were determined to be ineligible because of insufficient damages and you feel this finding is incorrect you have a right to file an appeal.
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