Area residents affected by the Nov. 17 tornadoes may now call or go online to register for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Registering is an important way to help get you on the path to a variety of recovery programs,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Donald Keldsen. “Even those with insurance should apply. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but under-insured applicants may receive help after their insurance claims have been settled.”
The major federal disaster declaration, signed by President Barack Obama on Nov. 26, offers individual assistance in 15 counties, including Massac and Pope.
Disaster survivors have several ways to apply.
• Individuals can call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 for the speech- and hearing-impaired.
• Another option is to register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or via web-enabled phone or tablet at m.fema.gov.
The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Individuals who are insured will need to submit their settlement documentation to FEMA before an eligibility determination can be made. A letter will be sent after the resident applies, explaining how to submit this paperwork.
A FEMA inspector may call the individual to arrange a visit to their damaged home or apartment.
Those who qualify for FEMA assistance will receive a federal government check or the funds will be directly deposited into a designated bank account.
A separate letter also will be sent, explaining how the individual may use the funds.
FEMA can assist in the following areas:
• Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements
• Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.
• Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.
• Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.
• Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available up to $200,000 for primary residence and $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
• Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million.
• Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.
FEMA also offers crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; and advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.
For additional information about FEMA assistance, call the above numbers.
FEMA and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are also urging tornado victims to be alert for potential fraud and to keep these points in mind:
• A FEMA inspector will first contact an individual by phone to arrange a visit to the damaged home or apartment to determine if you have uninsured, eligible losses. A FEMA inspector will always have an official badge visible during the inspection. An individual needs to ask to see the badge before allowing him/her to enter their home.
• FEMA will not contact a person requesting personal information to process a prepaid credit card.
• FEMA does not charge for information that it gives out.
• FEMA does not send out text messages asking recipients to call fee-based telephone numbers. The toll-free numbers above are used for all contact with FEMA, including applying and follow-up.
• FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration do not charge fees for information regarding filling out the SBA loan applications. Free assistance is available by calling SBA’s toll-free number at 800-659-2955 or for TTY at 800-877-8339.
Anyone with knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse may call the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 800-323-8603. Residents may also send an email to DHSOIGHotline@dhs.gov. Complaints may also be made via the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or with state or local law enforcement officials or consumer agencies.