HELENA, Mont. - Families and businesses in 16 counties and three reservations in Montana can now apply for federal assistance to help recover from the damage caused by the severe storms and flooding.
Homeowners, renters and businesses of any size that have sustained damages are being urged to register immediately with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin the process.
“You absolutely must register with FEMA as the first step in getting help,” said Ed Tinsley, Montana Disaster Emergency Services State Coordinating Officer. “Even if you have been in touch with a state, county or local DES coordinator, that does not get you registered with FEMA.”
Anyone seeking help need only call FEMA’s toll-free Help Line at 800-621-FEMA (3362) to speak to a representative and supply some basic information. Operators are standing by from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week local time.
Registration is also available online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov . From a cell phone or other PDA, the address is m.fema.gov. Those with hearing or speech disabilities can use the TTY number, 800-462-7585. At the website www.DisasterAssistance.gov survivors can get in touch with 14 federal agencies offering 69 assistance programs.
The process is fast and simple, according to Doug Mayne, FEMA’s Helena-based Federal Coordinating Officer.
Applicants should be ready to supply FEMA with his or her current contact information (mailing address, phone number, e-mail address or that of a friend or relative who can find the applicant), a Social Security number of any household member, the address of the damaged property, a brief description of the damage and, if appropriate, any information about insurance coverage one might have. The FEMA representative might ask for some other data, such as the number of people residing in the property and the family’s gross income. All this information is critical to the process and will be kept confidential by FEMA, Mayne said.
After registering with FEMA, applicants will get a case number so they can follow the progress of their case and use it when speaking to other FEMA personnel. To check on the status of an application, the applicant can call the FEMA Help Line or visit a Disaster Recovery Center, the locations of which are available through any of the contact methods described. This information will be available within 24 hours after initially registering with FEMA.
FEMA will send the applicant a copy of his or her application and some printed material to help explain the full process. This publication is available in English and Spanish.
Then, an inspector may arrange for a time and date when the registered property can be assessed for damages. These inspectors are FEMA contractors who carry an official FEMA identification. Under no circumstances will an inspector ask for money or any other consideration to do an assessment. (It is a good idea to note the inspector’s name and badge number.) Inspectors file their reports, but do not decide on the applicants’ eligibility for assistance, according to FEMA officials.
The applicant must be present when the inspector arrives and be able to provide proof that he or she is the owner or renter of the property that was damaged and that it is the owner’s or renter’s primary residence.
Applicants are urged to visit any Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) after they go through the entire registration process. Staff at the DRC will give guidance on disaster recovery, clarify any letters or calls applicants may have received from FEMA and talk to the Small Business Administration about low-interest loans, if appropriate. SBA representatives work side-by-side with FEMA at all recovery centers in order to provide expanded, affordable options for survivors of disasters.
The Small Business Administration...