TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Don't let half-truths and rumors cause you to miss out on federal disaster assistance available to Floridians devastated by severe storms and flooding since May 17. Here are some answers that should help clarify common misconceptions about disaster assistance offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):
- Isn't registering with FEMA for disaster assistance complicated?
No. Registering is free, can be done by phone or on the Internet and takes about 20 minutes. Get the help you're eligible for by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) toll-free registration and Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 800-462-7585, for those with a speech- or hearing-impairment. Registrations can also be completed online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or at a Disaster Recovery Center. Representatives are available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available to speak to applicants.
Those living in Volusia County who sustained losses or property damage caused by the storms are encouraged to apply for FEMA assistance.
- Do I have to register with FEMA if I'm already registered with the state, American Red Cross (ARC) or another non-profit organization?
Yes. Registering with ARC or other organizations and agencies is different than registering for FEMA assistance. In order to be considered for assistance you must register with FEMA directly.
- If I have insurance, can I still apply for FEMA assistance to help pay for losses my insurance doesn't cover?
Yes. While insurance is your main source of funding to replace your disaster losses, there are many things insurance does not cover. Some individuals may find they are underinsured and disaster assistance may be able to help fill the gap.
- Do I have to wait for an insurance adjustor or inspector to visit before I can clean up?
No. 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.
- Can I apply for a loan from the SBA or are they only for businesses?
Yes. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to renters, homeowners and businesses for uninsured or underinsured disaster-related damages. After a presidential declaration, the SBA is the primary source of federal financial assistance. The SBA has representatives in all Disaster Recovery Centers.
Details on the locations of Disaster Recovery Centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or by emailing our customer service center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Survivors may also apply for disaster loans from SBA's secure Web site at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
- I'm not interested in getting a loan; I only want grants. Do I still need to fill out an SBA loan form?
Yes. Completing and submitting an SBA loan application is not required to qualify for temporary housing and emergency home repair grants from FEMA. However, if an applicant receives the loan application in the mail, FEMA encourages them to return it so they can be considered for all forms of assistance they may be eligible for. If you do not receive an SBA loan application in your FEMA application packet, or you do not qualify for a loan, you may be considered for other forms of assistance.