INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors circulating about how to get help and the various assistance programs available. The last thing those affected by disaster need is misinformation.
The first thing that people who sustained damage or incurred losses from the severe storms and flooding that began on September 12 should do is apply for disaster assistance. This is done by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing or speech impaired) or logging on to www.fema.gov.
Disaster assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, 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 eligible homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained losses not covered by insurance.
After having applied for assistance, those with questions should check online at www.fema.gov, visit a nearby disaster recovery center or call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585).
Here are some of the most common questions and comments from people dealing with disaster recovery…
I got help from the American Red Cross. Can I still apply to FEMA if I need assistance?
Yes, you should apply to FEMA. Think of the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies as your immediate helpers with food, clothing, blankets and shelter during the first days of the disaster. FEMA is your long term recovery partner with rental assistance, housing repair money and grants to meet other serious needs caused by the disaster.
I don't really want a loan. Do I still need to fill out the SBA application when I receive it?
Yes, fill it out and return it. You may qualify for a FEMA grant to replace your personal property damaged in the disaster. If you don't complete and return the SBA loan application, you may not be considered for further FEMA assistance.
I have insurance. Is there other help available to me?
Yes. Although insurance should be your main source of money to get your life back on track after a disaster, there are many things that insurance does not cover. Federal disaster assistance may help to make up the difference for under-insured losses, and there may be other state and federal programs that can provide help, such as Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Disaster Legal Services.
Can I apply for a low interest loan from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) even if I'm not a business owner?
Yes. Don't let the name fool you. Homeowners may be eligible for disaster loans up to $200,000 for building repairs or replacement. Homeowners and renters can apply for loans up to $40,000 for personal property losses. Businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations can apply for up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, machinery and equipment, supplies, and inventory. For more information call 1-800-659-2955, or visit the SBA Web site at www.sba.gov.
I rent an apartment. Can I get help to replace my damaged property?
Yes. A renter may qualify for a grant from FEMA or an SBA low-interest disaster loan. FEMA has grants to replace personal property such as clothing, automobiles and furniture if they're not covered by insurance. And, FEMA can provide temporary housing assistance if a renter has to move to another dwelling.
If I am an undocumented resident, am I eligible for any assistance?