Common Misunderstandings May Cause Some Storm Victims to Miss Disaster Assistance

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Release date: 
March 9, 2008
Release Number: 
1746-018

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Kentucky's Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) said in the first few weeks following a disaster, those affected may be misled by half-truths and rumors.

"When you have suffered a loss, the last thing you need is misinformation," said Michael Bolch, FEMA's coordinating officer. "While we cannot make storm victims whole, we certainly can provide the kinds of assistance found in good information that helps them get on their feet to restore their lives."

State and federal disaster recovery officials said there are two easy ways to begin the application process. You may call FEMA's toll-free number, 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the hearing- and speech-impaired. Both numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are also available to answer your call. Residents with Internet access have the option to register on the agency's website at www.fema.gov where valuable recovery information is also available.

Following are some clarifications for common misconceptions about disaster assistance:

I have insurance. I hear there still may be other help available to me.
True. 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. That 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.

I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
False. 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, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you may get FEMA help. To avoid a duplication of benefits, you may need to provide additional insurance information.

I already repaired my home. It is too late to apply.
False. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.

I have to make a reservation and go to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance.
False. There are two ways to apply for assistance. You may call FEMA's toll-free number at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800 462-7585 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, seven days a week. Individuals with Internet access can apply on the agency's website at www.fema.gov. Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) 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. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives are also 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, but I still need to apply to FEMA if I need assistance.
True. 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 agency is notthe same as applying with FEMA. F...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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