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Hurricane Irma Rumor Control

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Rumor: Sharing Application Information, Immigration Enforcement

FEMA will not proactively provide information gathered through these applications with ICE or CBP for immigration enforcement purposes; however, if a significant law enforcement interest exists (e.g. a national security case) for an individual whose information is contained therein, FEMA may share information with our law enforcement partners, within DHS per their request, in accordance with the intra-agency need to know exception to the general disclosure prohibition of the Privacy Act of 1974.

Rumor: Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)

Some Florida residents believe the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (D-SNAP) program is a FEMA program and that they may visit D-SNAP locations for FEMA assistance. This is FALSE.

The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) is funded by the US Department of Agriculture and administered by the state of Florida as the Food for Florida program. D-SNAP assistance is a critical part of the recovery process for Florida residents and another way government agencies and states augment assistance. For information on how to apply, visit Food for Florida.

Rumor: Evacuation Reimbursement

There have been reports that people in Georgia who evacuated but did NOT have damage to their home can bring hotel receipts to a Disaster Recovery Center to be reimbursed by FEMA for lodging expenses they incurred. This is INCORRECT (October 4th)

FEMA will not reimburse for (travel or lodging) expenses incurred during a mandatory evacuation unless a FEMA inspection reports the applicant’s primary residence as uninhabitable, inaccessible, or affected by an extended utility outage related to the disaster.

Rumor: Receiving Emails from “Send Word Now.com” and Text Messages

There are reports of individuals receiving emails from “@sendwordnow.com” regarding their applications for FEMA assistance. This email address is VALID. (September 25)

FEMA uses Send Word Now (SWN), a mass notification service provider, to help us communicate with disaster survivors regarding their registration for FEMA assistance. The notifications will come in the form of phone calls, emails, and/or text messages. Below are the addresses or numbers that are associated with each form of communication.

  1. Email Address: Federal Emergency Management Agency PHX-gwb@sendwordnow.com
  2. Text Message: 821-04 or 386-71
  3. Phone: 1-800-621-3362; 1-866-337-9322

Rumor: National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

There are reports that FEMA is training additional National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) adjusters- THIS IS TRUE. (September 28)

The entire insurance industry is searching for qualified individuals to join the ranks of claims adjusters to handle losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and future events. FEMA is increasing the fee paid to adjusters to ensure that our policyholders receive the best care possible. To be competitive with other insurance companies looking for senior adjuster experience, FEMA will pay adjusters up to 26% above the already increased fee schedule to adjust flood claims. This brings NFIP claims in line with other insurance industry companies which have also increased payments to adjusters.

This temporary move will mean that NFIP policyholders will receive the same high-level of adjustment experience of other insurance claimants – the experience they’ve paid for and deserve.

After filing a flood insurance claim, policyholders should discuss the enhanced claims process with their insurer to determine if an advance payment of up to $20,000 is available to help begin the recovery process as quickly as possible.

There are reports that policyholders should pay a fee or a percentage of their flood insurance proceeds to third parties to help them file a claim- THIS IS FALSE. (September 28)

Your flood insurer processes your claim at NO COST. This includes the cost of an insurance adjuster.

Visit FEMA’s resource page on how to file your flood insurance claim for guidance and additional information.

To support policyholders recovering from flood damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the NFIP is enhancing the flood insurance claims process and directing all their private insurance partners to:

  • Provide advance payments on flood claims, even before visits by an adjuster
  • Increase the advance payment allowable for policyholders who provide photographs or video depicting flood damage, along with receipts or canceled checks for their out-of-pocket expenses, or a contractor’s itemized estimate
  • Waive the initial Proof of Loss (POL) requirement to allow advance payments
  • Extend the standard 30-day grace period for NFIP policy renewals

FEMA implemented these temporary changes to rush recovery money into the hands of NFIP policyholders for repair or replacement of flood-damaged properties. Policyholders are encouraged to work closely with their flood insurance company and claims adjuster to maximize the benefit of this enhanced process.

Rumor: FEMA Assistance

Houses on stilts do not qualify for insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This is FALSE. (September 27)

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers a variety of elevated homes. To obtain a flood insurance policy from the NFIP, you need to live in a community that participates in the NFIP. Because several factors can determine eligibility of a structure, the best way to know about your home is to consult your flood insurance agent.

Regardless of current coverage under NFIP, you can apply for FEMA disaster assistance for free at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/.

Rumor: FEMA Volunteers

FEMA volunteers are paying all their volunteers $700/day for volunteering. This is FALSE. (September 27)

FEMA does not solicit volunteers to work on behalf of the agency but rather hires and compensates qualified staff. In Florida, FEMA is hiring local employees to assist with disaster recovery. Go to the website www.employflorida.com to apply.

Rumor: FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams

FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are going door-to-door handing out $500 checks starting Monday. This is FALSE. (September 27)

FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are going door-to-door to register survivors for disaster assistance (www.disasterassistance.gov). They offer this assistance in a wide variety of languages. Our Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams do not hand out checks nor carry cash.

Rumor: Generators

There are rumors that FEMA is providing generators to survivors following hurricane Irma. This is FALSE. (September 21)

If you owned a generator prior to the hurricane and it was damaged as a result, you may be eligible for financial assistance to repair or replace the generator.

If you rent or purchased a generator to power medically required equipment, you are eligible due to a disruption of electrical utility outage caused by a Presidentially-declared disaster. The following items must be met:

  • Live in a declared county and it’s your primary residence.
  • Proof of purchase or rental agreement for the generator.
  • A statement from a medical provider to confirm the generator is medically necessary.

If you meet the above requirements in either scenario, you should register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

Rumor: Operation Blue Roof

There are rumors that homes who sustained roof damage are eligible for Operation Blue Roof for all counties in the state of Florida. This is INCORRECT. (September 20)

Only certain counties are eligible: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota. (September 20)

Operation Blue Roof is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is a program for homeowners who have damage to their roofs. The program sends licensed contractors out to homes to cover the damage with fiber-reinforced plastic sheeting (tarp) until homeowners can arrange repairs. Operation Blue Roof allows residents to stay in their homes, instead of paying for temporary housing or hotels. The program also protects property while homeowners recover from the storm. This is a free service to homeowners with homes that are primary residences or permanently occupied rental properties that have less than 50 percent structural damage. Vacation rental properties are not eligible for the program. Not all roof types qualify for the program. Residents are encouraged to visit http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/blueroof/ for a list of counties that are eligible for Operation Blue Roof.

Rumor: Florida Housing Assistance Contact Information

There are reports that Florida residents should seek housing assistance or hotel payments by contacting Corporate Lodging Assistance at femahousing@XXXX.com  or calling 866-545-XXXX. The contact information is INCORRECT. (September 17)

Housing-related expenses can be included in federal disaster assistance and the first step for Florida residents and businesses is to apply for assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov or if you do not have access to the internet, you may register by calling 800-621-3362 (711 or Video Relay Service Available) or 800-462-7585 (TTY).

Rumor: Service Animals in Shelters

There are rumors that persons with disabilities are not permitted to bring their service animals to shelters serving disaster survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  This is FALSE. (September 15) 

The American Red Cross, along with other state, local, and nongovernmental organizations, operate most shelters serving disaster survivors.  Under civil rights law, these shelter providers are required to allow an individual with a disability to be accompanied by their service animal within the shelter.  A service animal is not a pet and is therefore not subject to restrictions applied to pets or other animals.  For more information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act, see Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA and ADA Requirements: Service Animals.

Anyone with a service animal who has been turned away from a disaster shelter can contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at 866-644-8360 (voice), 1-866-644-8361 (TTY), or CRCL@dhs.gov, the FEMA Office of Equal Rights at 202-212-3535, or the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY)

Rumor: Critical Needs Assistance for Electric Bills

If you were without power for more than 2 days you are eligible for $250 – This is FALSE.

Those living in the below counties are now eligible to apply for federal disaster assistance under the FEMA Individual Assistance Program. Residents and business owners who sustained losses from Hurricane Irma in those counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

If you do not have access to the internet, you may register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY).

Survivors who register with FEMA may be eligible for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral and burial costs.

These grants are not automatically dispersed upon registering with FEMA as eligibility must be determined for each applicant. Remember, only one person per household may apply with FEMA.

Eligible Counties:

Georgia: Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty & McIntosh

Florida: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union & Volusia

Rumor: Shelters, Evacuations, & Immigration Status

There are rumors undocumented immigrants cannot go to a shelter because they will be reported to ICE or CBP. This is FALSE. (September 10)

  • As Hurricane Irma continues to impact the United States mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) highest priorities – are to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities, the safe evacuation of people who are leaving the impacted area, the maintenance of public order, the prevention of the loss of property to the extent possible, and the speedy recovery of the region. In evacuation or response, we are committed to making sure that we can assist local authorities quickly, safely, and efficiently. DHS will not conduct non-criminal immigration enforcement operations in the affected area. At the request of FEMA, local and state authorities, DHS law enforcement personnel will be in the affected area to conduct search and rescue, air traffic de-confliction and public safety missions. When it comes to rescuing people in the wake of Hurricane Irma, immigration status is not and will not be a factor. However, the laws will not be suspended, and we will be vigilant against any effort by criminals to exploit disruptions caused by the storm.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have stated that they are not conducting immigration enforcement at relief sites such as shelters or food banks. In the rare instance where local law enforcement informs ICE of a serious criminal alien at a relief site that presents a public safety threat, ICE will make a determination on a case-by-case basis about the appropriate enforcement actions. More information is available at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) joint statement. The Federal Government strongly encourages all persons to follow the guidance of local officials and seek shelter regardless of their immigration status.
  • Most shelters are managed by local communities, the Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies. American Red Cross’ humanitarian mission is to feed, shelter, and provide other forms of support without regard to race, religion, or citizenship status. The Red Cross will not ask people to show any form of identification in order to stay in their shelters. In order to receive some Red Cross services, such as meeting with a caseworker to facilitate disaster recovery, they will need to verify a person’s pre-disaster address. For people who don’t have government-issued identification, the Red Cross can usually do this through alternative means, such as a copy of a utility bill.

Rumor: Pets in Shelters and Hotels

There are reports all emergency shelters and hotels are required to accommodate pets for people who have evacuated. This is FALSE. (Corrected for clarity on September 12)

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (Pub. L. 109-308 (2006)) requires all state, local, tribal, and territorial governments that receive FEMA assistance to make plans to accommodate household pets and service animals during emergencies.

To locate pet-friendly emergency shelters, please contact your local emergency management agency.

Hotels and motels participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program do not fall under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (Pub. L. 109-308 (2006)). Please call the hotel before you go and ask if pets are permitted.

Hotels must accept service animals, and individuals with access and functional needs should check with the hotel to ensure that accessible lodging accommodations are available to meet their needs.

Rumor: High Demand for Fuel in Florida

There are reports there is a high demand for fuel in Florida. That rumor is TRUE. (September 8)

As evacuations take place, the State of Florida advises residents to only take the amount of fuel that you need to get your destination.

The Florida Emergency Operations Center reports that demand in some areas has increased five times above normal levels and some gas stations are experiencing temporary outages. However, the fuel supply chain remains fully intact, and the State of Florida is working to move as much fuel through the system as possible in order to replenish reduced stocks.

Also, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel continues to remain available throughout the state of Florida. It is also working with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to assess potential impacts to the oil and gas sector from Hurricane Irma, and ongoing impacts from Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

Rumor: Disaster Clean-up and Inspections

There may be reports that disaster survivors should not remove flood-damaged sheetrock, flooring, carpet, etc. until the house is assessed by FEMA or insurance adjustors. This is FALSE. (September 5)

Cleaning up and making temporary repairs to your storm-damaged property will not disqualify you from federal disaster assistance.

Property owners are encouraged to document storm damage to their properties – either with photographs or video – and to then begin cleaning up and making whatever temporary repairs are necessary to make their homes safe and habitable again. Put your health and safety first, take pictures of your damaged home, make repairs to prevent further damage to your property, and keep your receipts to show the inspector.

Scam: Inspections or Contractor Repairs

There may be reports of FEMA inspectors asking for personal information or charging for services such as damage inspections or contractor repairs. This is a SCAM. (September 5).

Scam artists may pose as government officials, aid workers, charitable organizations, or insurance company employees. Follow these steps:

  • Do not respond to texts, phone calls or personal requests seeking your personal information. The only time you should provide personal information is during the initial application process for FEMA help or when you initiate contact with FEMA to follow up on an application. FEMA inspectors only require verification of identity.
  • Ask for identification and don’t be afraid to hang up on cold callers.
  • Contact government agencies using information posted on their websites or in other official sources.
  • Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or contracts with blank spaces.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or report it to the Federal Trade Commission.  

Rumor: FEMA Business Re-Entry List

There may be reports from businesses that a FEMA list exists that permits travel into the disaster areas. If a business is not on the list, they may not do business in the area. This is FALSE. (September 5)

FEMA didn’t create a list like this. Public and business access into the disaster-impacted areas is solely at the discretion of local officials. Some flooded areas are now dry and available for the public to return, including businesses. However, some areas remain under curfew, some areas remain dangerous and inaccessible, and some areas are subject to new evacuation orders.

Before attempting to enter a disaster-impacted area, check with local officials.

Last Updated: 
11/16/2017 - 12:11