ALBANY, N.Y. – When Hurricane Irene tore into the East Coast in late August, residents in declared counties became eligible for federal assistance. Yet some people who suffered losses and damage in the wake of the disaster have failed to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
All they need to do is register with FEMA to get the process started.
“There are many misconceptions about getting help,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Philip Parr. “Often people who would qualify for assistance miss out because they are mistaken or misinformed.”
Many simply don’t know that FEMA offers help to homeowners and renters who have suffered damage to their homes.
Others think that since they already cleaned up and made whatever repairs were needed that they can’t apply for assistance. Still others are worried that accepting money from FEMA might have an impact on their Social Security checks or would be taxed as income by the IRS. In addition, some may feel hesitant in accepting taxpayer money because “my neighbor needs it more than I do.”
Sometimes disaster survivors assume that when they collect their insurance claims, even if the amount they receive fell short of covering the damage sustained, that they aren’t eligible for any federal help.
But the most common reason that people fail to register with FEMA and apply for assistance is the assumption that having alerted local, county or state officials about the damages and other losses, that they automatically are registered with FEMA.
“It’s perfectly logical to think that once you talk to any emergency official, the process has started,” Parr said. “But that is incorrect. The best thing to do is call the FEMA registration line at 800-621-3362. You can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, and all the information you need is right there.”
For individuals with hearing or speech impairments, FEMA has a TTY line at 800-462-7585. The lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, and operators are on duty who speak several languages, including Spanish, Vietnamese, German, Portuguese and Yiddish. With a web-enabled mobile device or smartphone, you can go to m.fema.gov.
“FEMA is here to support New York state’s efforts to come to the aid of area residents,” Parr said. “We want to make sure everybody who is eligible for assistance gets the help they need.”
Homeowners have 60 days to apply for FEMA assistance.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.