WESTFIELD, Mass. -- When individuals apply for federal and state disaster assistance, there may be an expectation that disaster recovery programs will provide all the funds needed to recover from the damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene from August 27 -- 29.
Understanding the steps of the federal/state recovery process can help people reduce the confusion brought on by a disaster, sort out the information available and make the decisions required to begin rebuilding their lives.
Officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stress that disaster programs, except for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low interest disaster loans, cannot return applicants to their pre-disaster conditions.
"Grant programs are meant to help people begin their recovery," said Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) James N. Russo. "Their purpose is to ensure that people are safely housed and to address their serious unmet needs following a disaster."
During disasters, emergency services -- including medical, fire and evacuation -- are provided by local and state first responders. Emergency needs -- such as shelter, food and clothing -- may be provided through Massachusetts Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster agencies, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other community-based organizations.
MEMA State Coordinating Officer Kurt Schwartz said, "The FEMA Other Needs Assistance (ONA) grant, which covers serious unmet needs, is only awarded for essential losses not covered by insurance or SBA disaster loans."
SBA low-interest disaster loans cover a majority of federal disaster assistance. SBA loans can pay recovery expenses not covered by state or local programs or by private insurance and can return a survivor to pre-disaster conditions.
Homeowners and business owners approved for a disaster loan could receive funds necessary to repair or rebuild their real estate losses, while renters and homeowners can replace personal property damaged in the storms. Business owners can also replace inventory losses. Business of all sizes and non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for their disaster losses.
Even if individuals have applied for and received immediate assistance from volunteer groups, it is still necessary for them to register with FEMA for possible additional federal and state disaster assistance.
Those with damages from the storms who have yet to register for disaster assistance may do so by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Individuals with a hearing or speech disability may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Registration can also be made online at www.disasterassistance.gov or on a mobile device at m.fema.gov.
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.