WESTFIELD, Mass. -- For residents of Hampden and Worcester counties hit by the June 1 severe storms and tornadoes, the Aug. 15, 2011 deadline for applying for federal disaster aid is approaching fast. Don’t let common misunderstandings cause you to miss deadlines for disaster assistance.
Check the following questions and answers to learn why you should register now at www.fema.gov/ or 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:
I have insurance. Should I wait for my insurance settlement before requesting additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency?
No. Insurance is your main source of money to put your life back in order after a disaster, but FEMA may be able to help with things insurance does not cover. If you have insurance, find out what is covered, take pictures if you can, and begin clean-up and repairs, keeping estimates and receipts. You may not be eligible for assistance until you can provide additional insurance settlement information to FEMA (a necessary step to avoid duplication of benefits), but register now, before the deadline.
Whether you have insurance or not, it's a good idea to register immediately with FEMA either online or by phone.
I already repaired my home. Can I still apply?
Yes. By registering, you still could qualify for reimbursement of eligible repairs or to help with needs not covered by your insurance.
I got help from the American Red Cross. Can I still register with FEMA if I need assistance?
Yes. Registration with the Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as registering with FEMA. FEMA coordinates various federal programs to help disaster victims, which are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies.
Do I have to meet a minimum amount of damage before I can register with FEMA?
No. There is no minimum requirement for registering for federal and state disaster assistance. FEMA, by law, cannot duplicate other benefits, but you may have losses, for example, not covered by insurance, that could be reimbursed by FEMA.
Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan?
No. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant's eligibility. The SBA will decide whether you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a home loan, you may be eligible for other assistance, such as FEMA's Other Needs Assistance grant program that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
I don't really want a loan. Do I still need to fill out the SBA application when I receive it?
Yes. If the home loan application is not returned, you may not be considered for some other forms of disaster assistance.
If I qualify for an SBA loan, do I have to accept it?
No. IF SBA determines that you are eligible to receive a low-interest disaster loan, you do not have to accept the loan. SBA allows up to six months for you to reopen your case and request a redetermination.
I rent an apartment. Can I get help to replace my damaged personal property?
Yes. A renter also may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or grants from other sources to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Other grants may cover eligible individuals or f...