ATLANTA, Ga. -- Don't let half-truths and rumors cause you to miss out on the federal disaster assistance made available for those devastated by the severe storms and tornadoes that hit Georgia recently. Federal and state officials agree the last thing people need after suffering losses is misinformation. The following adds clarification for some common misconceptions about disaster assistance:
- I have heard that registering with FEMA for disaster assistance is complicated.
Not True. Registration takes about 20 minutes, either by phone or on the Internet.
Applicants should register by calling Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) toll-free at 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Those with a speech- or hearing impairment may call TTY 800-462-7585 and apply. Multilingual operators are available to speak to applicants Toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, until further notice. Also, applicants can register online at www.fema.gov, or at one of the six Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs).
- I registered for help through the American Red Cross and my local officials. I've been told that means I've registered with FEMA too.
Not True. FEMA coordinates a number of federal programs to help individuals, however, they are different from the emergency food, clothing and sheltering initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies. Registration with the American Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as applying with FEMA.
- Because I have insurance, I can't apply for FEMA assistance to help pay for losses my insurance doesn't cover.
Not True. While insurance is your main source of funding to put your life back in order, there are many things that insurance does not cover. That is where federal disaster programs may be able to help. Some individuals may find that they are "underinsured" and disaster assistance may be able to help fill the gap.
- I have to wait for an insurance adjustor or inspector to visit before I can clean up.
Not True. You should begin cleaning your home or business as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Remember to take photos and keep records of your clean-up efforts and expenses.
- I can't apply for a loan from the SBA because they are only for businesses.
Not True. The SBA offers disaster loans to renters, homeowners and businesses for their "uninsured" or "underinsured" disaster-related losses. In a presidential declaration, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the primary source of federal financial assistance. The SBA has representatives in all DRCs, and has established a SBA Business Recovery Center at the Morris Brown College Campus Gymnasium, Atlanta, GA 30314. The hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, until further notice.
- I don't want a loan, I want a grant, so I don't need to fill out a SBA loan form.
Not True. FEMA's Other Needs Assistance program is designed to help meet serious, disaster-related needs. If you do not qualify for a loan, you may be considered for other forms of assistance. However, referral to other programs cannot be made until the SBA loan application is completed, returned and evaluated. So you must complete and return your SBA loan application.
- I have to visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance.
Not True. You may call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) to start the process. Those with a speech- or hearing impairment may call TTY 800-462-7585 and apply. Multilingual operators...