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Common Misunderstandings May Harm Disaster Survivors

Release date: 
September 21, 2010
Release Number: 

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be confused or misled by rumors and half-truths about how to get help from the various assistance programs that are available.

While state and federal programs are not intended to make storm survivors whole, they can provide the kinds of assistance that helps those affected by the summer storms to begin the recovery process.

Officials of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) point to two easy ways to begin the recovery process:

  • Go to to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, or
  • Call 1 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1 800-462-7585. Phone lines are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Following are clarifications of some common misunderstandings about disaster assistance and answers to some frequently asked questions:

I got help from the American Red Cross, but I still need to apply to FEMA if I need assistance.
TRUE. FEMA programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies. Registration with the Red Cross or other voluntary agency is not the same as applying with FEMA.

I have insurance. I hear there may be other help available to me.
TRUE. Insurance is your main source to cover emergencies or to put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are some things that insurance may not cover. That is where federal disaster programs may be able to help.

I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
FALSE. You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster's inspection before applying for assistance or beginning repairs needed to make your house safe, sanitary and functional. If you wait, you could miss the deadline to apply to FEMA. However, if you have insurance, you must file an insurance claim, find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work done. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you may be considered for FEMA assistance. To avoid a duplication of benefits, please submit your insurance settlement or denial documents to FEMA along with an appeal letter.

I already repaired my home, so it is too late to apply.
FALSE. You may be eligible for FEMA assistance for expenses not covered by your insurance.

I have to make a reservation and go to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance.
FALSE. There are two ways to apply for assistance. Individuals with Internet access can apply on the agency's website at You may apply by calling FEMA's toll-free number at 1 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1 800-462-7585 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. DRCs are designed to provide additional information or assistance. No appointment is necessary and you may visit any DRC even if it is not located in your town or county.

I have already applied to FEMA for assistance; there’s no reason for me to go to a DRC.
.  You can meet face-to-face with FEMA disaster recovery specialists. Other federal and state disaster recovery information is available in the centers. SBA customer service representatives are available to answer que...

Last Updated: 
July 8, 2017 - 10:49
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