MADISON, Wis. -- In the confusion following a disaster, rumors, half-truths and misunderstandings about federal and state assistance can cause some storm-struck residents to miss out on much-needed help.
"The last thing you need in a disaster is misinformation," said Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph Diemont, "and the best way to avoid that problem is to call and ask about assistance yourself." As federal coordinating officer, Diemont heads up the U.S. government's side of the disaster response and recovery efforts in Wisconsin.
Misinformation may deprive eligible individuals, households and business owners of vital aid from the state of Wisconsin and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Although our neighbors and fellow workers may believe they have the right information regarding disaster recovery, it is incomplete," said Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Johnnie Smith. "Don't rely on the word on the street. Call, go online or visit a Disaster Recovery Center and register for assistance. This is the right source of information on the help that may be available to you."
Anyone with damages and losses caused by the June severe storms, tornadoes and flooding can apply for assistance by calling 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Those with a speech- or hearing-impairment can call (TTY) 800-462-7585. Both telephone lines, as well as online registration at www.fema.gov, are open 24 hours a day.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions:
- I called my county emergency management director and reported my damages and losses, so I'm registered for federal and state disaster assistance programs. Not True: The call to a county emergency management director was to help locate areas affected by the June storms that may have been overlooked in the first preliminary damage assessments. Now, a separate call to FEMA is needed to register for federal and state programs.
- I have insurance, so there is no other help available. Not True: FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, but you may be eligible for help with losses not covered by your insurance. That's why it is important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company to assess your insurance coverage.
- I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance. Not True: Don't wait for an adjuster before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house livable. Follow your policy guidelines and keep your receipts.
- I already repaired my home. I don't need to apply. Not True: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance. Keep your receipts.
- I got help from the Red Cross, so I'm already registered with FEMA. Not True: Registration with the Red Cross is not the same as registration with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply by calling 800-621-FEMA, (TTY) 800-462-7585 or online at www.fema.gov.
- I got help from the Red Cross, so now I can't get help from FEMA or the state. Not True: FEMA and the state coordinate a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.
- I have to be poor to qualify for disaster aid. Not True: The kinds of help provided depends on each applican...