In 2003 alone, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid out nearly $2 billion in recovery assistance to victims of 56 declared natural disasters. If you become a victim of a declared natural disaster, do not hesitate to apply to FEMA for disaster assistance. It's a simple process, but there are some tips you need to keep in mind.
Applying for Disaster Assistance
As soon as possible, register for assistance by calling FEMAs toll free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY, 1-800-462-7585 for the speech or hearing impaired. When you call, a FEMA representative will explain the types of assistance available to you.
Shortly after a disaster, FEMA will setup mobile Disaster Recovery Centers in the stricken area. You can also apply for assistance by contacting the personnel there.
You can also apply for help online at: http://www.fema.gov/register.shtm
When applying, here are some tips to remember:
Be sure to give FEMA a phone number at which you can always be reached. They will need to contact you.
Make sure you can be present when FEMA comes to inspect your damage. Be sure your street address is easily visible and allow enough time for the inspection. There is no fee for the inspection. Inspectors will set up an appointment to visit your property within a few days of application. Inspectors are contractors; they are not FEMA employees, but they will have a FEMA ID.
If you move or change the location of your business after applying for federal/state assistance, call the FEMA toll free number to update your phone number and address.
Even if you have insurance, call FEMA and apply for assistance. This will establish your eligibility for help if, after you settle with your insurance company, further damage is discovered. Individuals who have insurance may still qualify for certain assistance.
Renters should not hesitate to apply for help. Renters may be eligible for help for essential items not covered by insurance. Also, both renters and homeowners forced from their homes may receive temporary housing assistance.
If you receive an SBA loan application, complete and return it even if you may not be able to afford a loan; individuals who are not qualified for a low-interest loan may be eligible for a grant.
To check the status of your application, or to amend it - for example, to report newly-discovered damage - select the helpline option at FEMAs toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY, 1-800-462-7585.
Once FEMA has inspected your damage and determined that you are eligible for assistance, you will receive a housing assistance check within 7-10 days.