NEPTUNE, N.J. -- New Jersey residents who were affected by Hurricane Irene should not forego registering for disaster assistance just because they think doing so will keep the assistance from reaching less-fortunate neighbors.
Federal and state officials are assuring Garden State residents that there is enough disaster assistance available for everyone who qualifies.
"Many times, there are people who feel others may have suffered more in a disaster than they have. And frequently these people don't want to take money from those they think may have a greater need, especially families," said William L. Vogel, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's federal coordinating officer.
Individual assistance is always a funding priority, said Vogel, adding that, "those financial commitments are always honored."
To date, more than $44 million has been disbursed to Hurricane Irene survivors in New Jersey under FEMA's individuals and households program. Nearly $42.5 million of this has been in housing assistance and $2.3 million providing assistance for other needs.
There also are other disaster survivors who do not register for assistance because they think accepting disaster assistance will interfere with other benefits they may be receiving.
"Federal and state disaster grants will not affect Social Security benefits and the grants are not taxable," said Vogel. "Income is not considered when registering for disaster assistance."
Disaster assistance is based on individual need. The first thing to do is to register.
There are three ways to register - go to www.disasterassistance.gov, to m.fema.gov or call FEMA toll-free, 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Those with access or functional needs and who use a TTY may call 800-462-7585 or use 711 or Video Relay Service to call 800-621-3362. Telephone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., ET; multilingual operators are available.
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.