Don't Rely on Rumors About Disaster Aid, Call FEMA for the Correct Information

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Release date: 
September 16, 2009
Release Number: 
1855-030

FRANKFORT, Ky. - In the turmoil that accompanies the shock and loss during a disaster, misleading rumors, half-truths and misunderstandings about available assistance may cause some survivors of the Aug. 4 severe storms and flooding to disqualify themselves from much-needed help.

Disaster recovery officials voiced concern that unreliable word-of-mouth comments in distressed neighborhoods and communities may deprive eligible individuals and households of vital aid from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The last thing you need in a disaster is misinformation," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Michael J. Lapinski. "And the best way to avoid that problem is to call FEMA's Helpline and ask, for yourself, what kind of disaster aid is available to you."

The Helpline phone numbers are 800-621-FEMA (3362) and TTY 800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing impaired.

Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, director, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said, "Don't miss out on available assistance by relying on false information. Be your own best friend and call or visit the disaster experts who are available to help you with your particular disaster situation."

Lapinski and Heltzel clarify some of the most common misconceptions heard in past disasters:

  • I have insurance, so there is no other help available for me. Not True: While it is true that FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, you may be eligible for help with losses not covered or damage in excess of your coverage. You may find yourself under-insured. That is why it is important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company to determine the extent of 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. You should, however, find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep all papers and receipts for any work performed. If an applicant does not know how much of their loss will be covered by insurance, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will consider making a loan for the total loss up to its loan limits, provided the borrower agrees to use insurance proceeds to reduce or repay their SBA loan;
  • I got help from the Red Cross, so I'm already registered with FEMA. Not True: Registration with the Red Cross, or with any other charitable organization, is not the same as registration with FEMA. For federal and Commonwealth disaster assistance, you must first apply by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing impaired;
  • I got help from the Red Cross, so now I can't get help from FEMA or the Commonwealth. Not True: FEMA and the Commonwealth coordinate a number of programs to help disaster survivors. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies;
  • I already repaired my home. I don't need to apply. Not True: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance;
  • I have to be poor in order to qualify for disaster aid. Not True: The kinds of help provided depend on each applicant's circumstances. Federal and Commonwealth disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income. These programs are not welfare.
  • I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan. Not True: If you lived in a disaster-declared county you are eligible to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA. The SBA has interest rates as low as 2.75 percent for homeowners and renters. If SBA cannot approve your loan application you may be referred to FEMA or other agencies for additional assistance, but that can't happen if you don't complete and...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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