WARWICK, R.I. - Rhode Island senior citizens who receive federal disaster assistance for losses due to Hurricane Sandy will still be able to receive all their other federal benefits-and they need not worry about having to pay any additional taxes.
"We want to assist seniors affected by Hurricane Sandy," said Federal Coordinating Officer James N. Russo, who leads the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Sandy recovery mission in Rhode Island. "We can't do that if they fear that asking for help will impact their other benefits or raise their taxes."
Federal disaster assistance does not affect Social Security payments, Medicare benefits, food stamps or any other federal assistance programs.. The Internal Revenue Service does not consider it taxable income.
Seniors and others who experienced damage from Sandy may be eligible for FEMA's Individual Assistance Program. This may cover expenses for temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged personal property and other disaster-related needs, such as medical, dental or transportation costs, not covered by insurance or other programs.
To determine whether they are eligible for disaster recovery help from FEMA, seniors and others must register. Go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or to m.fema.gov if using a smartphone or call 800-621-FEMA (3362), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have a speech disability may use TTY 800-462-7585.
After registering with FEMA, applicants may receive a packet from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA loans are not just for small businesses. After a federally declared disaster, the SBA offers low-interest disaster recovery loans for homeowners and renters. No one is obligated to take out a loan. But if you don't complete the application, you will not be considered for some other federal grants.
Some seniors with paid-off mortgages may wonder why they would want a long-term government loan. But if they need funds to restore their homes to pre-disaster condition, a low-interest loan from the federal government may be the best solution. The SBA offers disaster loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace homes and up to $40,000 to homeowners and renters for personal property losses. Interest rates are as low as 1.688 percent.
Find tweets about Sandy recovery at @femaregion1. For Rhode Island specific information go to http://www.fema.gov/disaster/4089. Other online resources include @FEMASandy and http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/FEMASandy and http://blog.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.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for medical and dental expenses, funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.