Hattiesburg, Miss. – While Mississippi survivors could not stop the January 20-21 severe storms and tornadoes from hammering Forrest, Lamar, Perry and Lauderdale counties, there is plenty those with losses can do – with the help of state and federal disaster assistance – to speed their personal recovery:
Register and File:
The first step is to contact FEMA and register for disaster assistance. Survivors can contact FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or by phone at 800-621-3362; TTY 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available.
State and federal disaster assistance is meant to help people pay for necessities and start to get back on their feet. Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for emergency repairs to damaged homes, temporary housing, or other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other sources.
Register even if you are insured. Your insurance coverage may not be adequate to cover all of your losses. If you have insurance, it’s important to contact your insurance agent to begin filing an insurance claim. Also: remember to update FEMA once you receive the settlement from your insurance company.
While the deadline to register is March 27, the longer you wait to register to see if you qualify for disaster assistance, the more you delay your personal recovery.
After You Register:
Read all FEMA letters and documents. After registering with FEMA, you will get a letter telling you the outcome of your application. Make sure you read the letter completely and carefully. At times, all that’s needed is for you to submit additional information.
Remember, you also have the right to appeal FEMA’s decision.
Federal assistance may have to be repaid if it is duplicated by insurance or other assistance received.
Call the FEMA Helpline to keep your information up to date. Call 800-621-3362 to:
- Ask questions about FEMA determination letters.
- Learn how to appeal FEMA’s determination. All applicants have the right to appeal.
- Inquire about the status of a registration.
- Provide change of address, telephone and bank account numbers and insurance information to avoid disaster assistance processing delays.
- Receive information about FEMA home inspections.
- Get other questions answered about federal disaster assistance
If it’s offered, complete and return the SBA loan application (SBA loans are not just for businesses). If you are contacted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and given the opportunity to apply for a low-interest SBA disaster loan, you should fill out the application and return it as soon as possible. As of March 5, SBA had approved 88 loans for nearly $4.8 million.
Not everyone who applies qualifies for FEMA disaster assistance grants, so submitting the SBA loan application, is important. Even if you don’t think you need nor want a loan, an SBA loan may be the key to your recovery by helping you pay for repairs and replacement of lost possessions.
If you qualify, SBA will work with you to develop a loan that you can manage, possibly by combining your existing home loan with the SBA loan into a new home loan.
Homeowners and renters who don’t qualify for an SBA loan will be referred back to FEMA for possible consideration of other grants opportunities. However, if you don’t submit the loan application, you halt the FEMA assistance process.
Be Smart In Your Recovery:
Choose a licensed contractor. Take time to carefully choose a contractor for repairs by demanding written estimates, following up with references and checking with local licensing authorities to see if the contractor is licensed in your community. Tips for persons seeking a licensed contractor and how to hire one are found at Mississippi State Board of Contractors under the Consumers tab or call 601-354-6161 or (800) 880-6161.
Ask for a written estimate. Make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do. Also, find out up-front if the contractor will charge a fee for that estimate.
Get a written contract. The contract should clearly state all work, costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. It may also be worthwhile to have an attorney look at the contract before signing it.
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.
All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and 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.