ROCKFORD, Ill. -- 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 disaster recovery officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), 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 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., local time seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available to answer calls. Residents with Internet access can register on the agency's Web site at www.fema.gov, where valuable recovery information also is available.
Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:
I have insurance. Is there other help available to me?
Yes. Insurance 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 repair 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 a necessary step to avoid a duplication of benefits.
I already repaired my home. Is it too late to apply?
No. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.
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.
Do I need to make an appointment at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to register for assistance?
No. But you should register for assistance prior to visiting the DRC. There are two ways to register 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 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Individuals with Internet access can register on the agency's Web site at www.fema.gov. After you have registered by phone or on-line you are encouraged to visit a Disaster Recovery Center for 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. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) officials are available to assist with low-interest disaster loan applications for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses of all...