WEST DES MOINES, IOWA -- After a disaster, those impacted may become eligible for federal and state help. Residents and business owners in Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona and Pottawattamie counties, who suffered losses and damage in the wake of the 2011 Missouri River flooding, should register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to find out if they are eligible for disaster assistance.
To dispel misconceptions about the process, here are a few commonly asked questions and answers:
Q: I applied for disaster assistance from FEMA last year when there was a flood here. Do I need to apply again?
A: Yes. Whether or not you have applied for assistance on a previous disaster, you must apply again. Each disaster is considered a separate incident when applying for aid.
Q: Will the FEMA assistance I receive come out of my Social Security check?
A: No. Assistance funds will not reduce or affect a recipient’s monthly Social Security or Disability benefit, or any other benefit payment you receive.
Q:If I received help from the American Red Cross, can I still receive help from FEMA?
A: Yes. Federal and state disaster assistance is not affected by programs offering emergency food, clothing, shelter, or other help after a disaster. The American Red Cross, churches and religious organizations, and voluntary agencies work side by side with FEMA and Iowa Homeland Security Emergency Management Division (HSEMD) to help those impacted to recover.
Q: If I get help from these organizations, am I automatically registered with FEMA?
A: No. Registering with the American Red Cross, or any faith-based organization or voluntary agency, is not the same as registering with FEMA. Regardless of all help received, disaster survivors in affected counties need to register with FEMA.
Q: Is there enough money for everyone? Should I tell my neighbor to register with FEMA?
A: Yes. There are sufficient disaster funds to assist every eligible applicant. Needs are assessed individually.
Q: Does FEMA charge for a home inspection?
A: No. FEMA and the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) never charge for an inspection.
Q: I don’t think I had much damage. Should I still apply to FEMA?
A: Yes. Sometimes damage related to a disaster is not immediately identifiable. You will only be eligible for disaster assistance later if you register with FEMA now.
Q: Do I have to wait for an insurance adjustor or inspector to visit before cleaning up?
A: No. You should begin cleaning your home or business as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Remember to take photos and keep records of your clean-up efforts and expenses.
Q: I already cleaned up and made repairs to my property. Am I still eligible to register with FEMA?
A: Yes. You may be eligible for reimbursement of your clean-up and repair expenses. Keep your receipts for disaster-related repairs and show them to the inspector.
Q: Do I have to be low-income to qualify for disaster aid? I think I make too much money.
A: No. Federal and state disaster assistance programs are available to all who suffered damages. Aid is damage-based, not income-based. The kinds of help provided depend on an applicant’s circumstances and unmet needs.
Q: Are disaster relief payments taxable?
A: No. Qualified disaster relief payments are not taxable.
Q: If I apply for disaster assistance will my credit rating go down?
A: It shouldn’t. Disaster assistance is for losses not covered by insurance. It is meant to help people with critical expenses not covered in other ways. But always monitor your credit report and dispute any negative impact related to the disaster.
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