WESTFIELD, Mass. -- After an individual registers for federal disaster assistance for damage and losses caused by Tropical Storm Irene, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mails a copy of the application and a copy of the publication “Help after a Disaster: A Guide to the Individuals and Households Program” to the applicant that answers frequently asked questions about the assistance process.
“It is especially important all applicants understand the process,” said Federal Coordinating Office James N. Russo. “There are many types of assistance available, and FEMA has a series of systems in place to handle the requests.”
If an applicant in Berkshire or Franklin County has damage to their home or personal property, they may be contacted by an inspector within 7-10 days after registering for federal disaster assistance to schedule a time to meet and view the damages with the individual or their qualified representative.
“Registration with FEMA is the entry point for all disaster assistance,” said State Coordinating Office Kurt Schwartz with Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) “It is important for applicants to understand how all this impacts their recovery from the late August storm.”
Applicants who receive the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application are strongly urged to complete and return it immediately. It is a necessary step to qualify for all available federal disaster programs.
If the home or its contents were damaged by wind and is insured, an insurance claim should be filed first. This will allow the resident to show FEMA a decision letter from the insurance company indicating settlement or denial of the claim.
If the applicant’s damage does not qualify for a grant, a letter will be sent to the applicant explaining why the request for assistance was turned down and the procedure to follow to appeal the decision. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA’s decision.
When documents are mailed or faxed to FEMA, it is very important the applicant includes their name, Social Security number, the disaster number, name or type of disaster, and registration identification number on all paperwork.
This will speed up processing and assure that the documents are placed in the correct file. The numbers can be found on the cover page included with all FEMA correspondence in the upper left-hand corner of the document.
Officials also emphasize the importance of making sure FEMA has current contact information for an applicant. If an applicant’s address or phone contacts change, FEMA needs to know immediately.
Applicants may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Anyone with a speech or hearing disability can call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Information can also be communicated online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone and other compatible electronic devices 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.