Pago Pago, AS -- Monday, Nov. 30, is the final day for American Samoa residents to apply for disaster assistance and return a completed U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application for damages or losses caused by the Sept. 29 earthquake, tsunami and flooding. Registration ends at 5 p.m. today, Nov. 30, 2009 at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Registrations cannot be accepted after the deadline. The registration Helpline is 633-3720.
Although FEMA will not be accepting registrations after the Nov. 30 deadline, a Service Center at the Convention Center in Utulei will open on Dec. 7, 2009 to answer questions and accept outstanding documentation. SBA representatives will also be located at the Service Center.
FEMA and its federal partners continue to work closely with the American Samoa Government to assist in the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the disaster. Below are a few updates:
- FEMA has approved more than $12.6 million in grants to individuals for housing and other disaster needs.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $5.7 million in low-interest disaster loans.
- Over 200 Celina tents have been distributed.
- Over 19,500 people have visited the DRC and 8,334 applications have been received.
- FEMA has begun installation of Sprung units at the Matatula Elementary school. Temporary school facility installations are on-going at Masafau, Afono and Le’atele Elementary schools.
- Power is fully restored on the east end of the island as part of the Tier II power restoration program. The west end will be completely restored by Dec. 4, 2009.
Crisis Counseling: In partnership with the American Samoa’s Department of Health and Social Services, FEMA continues to conduct crisis counseling outreach throughout the island. A 24-hour crisis hotline phone number has been established and is available to all American Samoans. The Hotline number is 633-3810.
Use Your Money Wisely: FEMA reminds individuals that by congressional mandate, disaster assistance funds should be used for their intended purpose. It is important to note that grants are tax free and are not a loan. They do not have to be repaid. They are not counted as income for welfare or other federal benefit programs and they cannot be garnished. Grants may be subject to an audit. Each recipient is responsible for spending the money as intended. Recipients are strongly encouraged to fully document their disaster-related expenses. They must keep receipts or bills for three years to demonstrate how all of the money was used in meeting disaster-related needs.
Fraud Hotline: Individuals who intentionally try to defraud the government are taking money away from those who truly need assistance. FEMA must ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses. This may include prosecuting anyone who makes a fraudulent claim. Anyone with information about individuals—maybe a contractor, or inspector, or disaster survivor, or someone posing as any of these—who may have defrauded the government in connection with the earthquake/tsunami disaster, should call the FEMA Fraud Hotline local number at 633-3768. The call is completely confidential.
Free Legal Assistance: Free legal assistance is being offered to low income individuals. Services are provided through outreach clinics and a telephone hotline in partnership between the American Samoa Bar Association (ASBA), the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and FEMA. A...