During and after a natural disaster there are numerous rumors that easily circulate within communities. Below are common rumors that arise as survivors are working towards their recovery.
RUMOR: FEMA only helps insured homeowners.
FACT: FEMA’s grant program provides financial assistance to homeowners and renters who have disaster-related damage and serious needs that are not covered by insurance or other sources. FEMA grants are not meant to make survivors whole, but to help them begin their recovery.
RUMOR: FEMA is paying insurance deductibles.
FACT: By law, FEMA cannot pay for insurance deductibles. However, survivors may be eligible for other FEMA or other types of federal assistance.
RUMOR: FEMA is charging for debris removal.
FACT: Beware of anyone claiming to be from FEMA seeking payments or sensitive information. FEMA staff never charge for assistance. If you are approached by anyone representing themselves as a FEMA representative seeking payment, please contact local law enforcement and call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. For information on debris removal in your area, contact your local officials or your local emergency management office.
RUMOR: Residents in disaster-designated areas should remove debris from trash bags that are placed on the right-of-way.
FACT: Residents should check with their local officials or emergency management office for specific debris guidance for their communities.
RUMOR: FEMA is covering food loss.
FACT: While FEMA's disaster assistance program may provide some immediate financial assistance, food losses are usually covered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Once the program is activated following a disaster, you can visit the D-SNAP website for information on registration, site locations and hours of operation.
RUMOR: If your power has been out for more than two hours you can get emergency food stamps. Everyone in the household older than 18 qualifies.
FACT: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) may be offered following a disaster. Once activated, you can visit the D-SNAP website for information on registration, site locations and hours of operation.
RUMOR: FEMA is giving out $500 to everyone who has registered.
FACT: Registration with FEMA is the first step in the disaster assistance process. There are a range of assistance programs, including grants for survivors dealing with disaster recovery. Grant amounts vary and are determined by factors such as insurance coverage and the amount of damage incurred.
RUMOR: FEMA grant money is a loan and must be paid back.
FACT: FEMA assistance is a grant, not a loan. Grants do not have to be repaid. Some homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofit organizations may accept low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA loans have to be repaid but at low interest rates. Again, FEMA grants do not have to be repaid.
In addition, FEMA grants are not taxable and do not affect your eligibility for other federal benefit programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
RUMOR: FEMA is paying volunteers and has asked them to keep track of hours.
FACT: FEMA does not employ volunteers. Local emergency management, local governments and non-profit organizations may have requirements for volunteers.
RUMOR: If your home is deemed unlivable, FEMA will issue a voucher for a place to stay for 90 days.
FACT: FEMA may provide financial assistance for temporary housing to eligible survivors who are displaced from their homes as a result of a Presidentially-declared disaster. If you are in this situation, registering with FEMA is the first step to determine if you’re eligible for this assistance. A case worker will let you know what assistance is available or refer you to other non-profit organization who may also be providing housing resources.
RUMOR: FEMA is handing out vouchers for hotels.
FACT: If you need emergency sheltering, you can visit a Disaster Recovery Center, or register with FEMA by calling 800-621-3362 or online at DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA works with non-profit organizations and in some situations, hotels and motels to provide emergency, temporary sheltering. A case worker will help determine eligibility and survivors who qualify will receive additional information. Although non-profit organizations may provide a voucher, FEMA does not require the use of vouchers for any emergency sheltering programs.
Home Repairs & Inspections
RUMOR: Survivors are unable to contact inspectors.
FACT: An inspector will contact a survivor only after they’ve registered with FEMA to schedule an inspection of an applicant’s damaged dwelling.
RUMOR: USACE/Contractors charge for blue roof installations
FACT: When activated, the Blue Roof Program, managed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, is funded by FEMA and blue roofs are provided at NO COST to the individual homeowner. Individuals representing themselves as part of the program attempting to charge disaster survivors should be reported to FEMA by calling (866-720-5721, TTY 844-889-4357), USACE (888-766-3258) or local law enforcement.
RUMOR: FEMA is asking owners of RV Parks to evict current tenants to make room for disaster survivors.
FACT: FEMA works with state and local governments to locate available spaces to place travel trailers, but NEVER asks or requires property owners to evict occupants. This temporary housing program is not activated after all disasters.
RUMOR: I don’t want to apply for help because others had more damage; they need the help more than I do.
FACT: FEMA, and other federal agencies, have enough funding to assist all eligible survivors with their disaster-related needs. If you have uninsured damage to your primary residence and live in a designated county, register by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
RUMOR: I didn’t apply for help because I don’t want a loan.
FACT: A routine part of applying for federal assistance includes filling out a U.S. Small Business Administration loan package. Survivors do NOT have to accept a loan; however, the loan package helps determine if survivors are eligible for additional federal grants. SBA provides low-interest loans.
RUMOR: FEMA will “Buy Out” my property that was damaged
FACT: FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program does offer grants to local and state governments that allows them to pursue projects that make communities better able to withstand future disasters. Property acquisitions are eligible projects under this program but it’s a process that will be handled by local and state government officials.
RUMOR: I’m a renter. I thought FEMA assistance was only for homeowners for home repairs.
FACT: FEMA assistance is not just paid for homeowners. FEMA may provide assistance to help renters who lost personal property or who were displaced.
RUMOR: All emergency shelters and hotels are required to accommodate pets for evacuees.
FACT: Shelters may have requirements and restrictions for pets. Check their requirements before arriving at the site. Check out www.ready.gov/animals for more tips on evacuating with your pet. Many hotels may waive their normal pet policies during evacuations, but you should call a hotel before arriving with a pet.
RUMOR: Service animals are not allowed in shelters
FACT: All service animals are allowed in shelters. Service animals are not pets. Service animals are trained to assist individuals who have disabilities and are authorized to relocate to survivor shelters per the “Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”
RUMOR: FEMA is providing generators to survivors
FACT: 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 rented or purchased a generator to power medically required equipment, you may be eligible for assistance due to a disruption of electrical service caused by a Presidentially-declared disaster. The following items must be met:
- Live in a disaster-designated 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 DisasterAssistance.gov.