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FEMA answers frequently asked questions
COMMON MISUNDERSTANDINGS COULD DELAY OR LIMIT YOUR ASSISTANCE
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Virginia’s earthquake declaration has spanned five months and much of central Virginia. News outlets in and around the disaster area diligently spread the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) message, but often residents hear second-hand information, rumors and half-truths about how to get access to the assistance programs available. When residents suffer losses they need accurate information.
Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:
I already repaired my home, can I still apply? Yes. By registering, you could still be eligible for essential disaster related repairs or to help with needs not covered by your insurance. It is helpful to take photos and save your receipts and records.
If I accept aid from FEMA will I lose my Social Security assistance? No. Earthquake survivors who receive disaster assistance from the FEMA will not lose their Social Security assistance nor have any assistance cut as a result of FEMA disaster assistance. FEMA disaster assistance is not taxable income.
Are only low-income residents qualified for disaster assistance? No. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income. The types of help provided depend on the applicant’s circumstances and unmet disaster-related needs.
If I registered with my county emergency manager, am I registered with FEMA? No. You still need to call the special toll-free registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585, if you use 711-Relay or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362 or go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Phone lines are open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. EST, seven days a week, or apply online anytime at www.fema.gov.
If I receive assistance will my neighbor who has a greater need than mine have their assistance limited? No. Once a disaster is declared all residents have equal access to all of FEMA’s assistance. The factors that determine grant amounts are directly related to an individual resident’s type and severity of damage.
Do I have to pay to register with FEMA? No. Registration with FEMA is encouraged and has no cost. To receive FEMA assistance one must first register with FEMA.
Does FEMA charge for inspections? No. Once a resident registers with FEMA and reports earthquake damage a FEMA inspector will call and schedule a visual inspection of all damage. If a FEMA inspector sees evidence that would suggest damage to a chimney or well, then a resident will receive, as part of an initial grant, money to have inspections performed by state licensed contractors. If earthquake damage is identified by the licensed contractor an appeal can be made to FEMA for additional assistance to cover these repair costs.
Do I need to make an appointment at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance? No. Appointments are not necessary at FEMA DRCs to get more information. You can register or ask for assistance anytime the DRC is open. If you need additional assistance, disaster specialists at the DRC can help. Once the DRC closes, you may call FEMA at 800-621-FEMA (3362) to register or ask questions.
May I still visit the DRC once I have registered with FEMA? Yes. Experienced and helpful FEMA representatives are at DRCs to assist and provide additional information. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives are available to help you apply for low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private non-profit organizations. Information about assistance from other federal, state and volunteer organizations is also available. You may visit any DRC even if it is not located in your town or county.
A FEMA and a state person looked at my property before my county was designated. Do I still need to register with FEMA? Yes. Prior to designating a county part of the federally declared disaster, the state and FEMA did “Preliminary Damage Assessments” (PDA) of homes and businesses to assess the extent of damage. Once your county received a designation that it is eligible for federal Individual Assistance programs, residents could begin registering with FEMA for assistance.
Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan? No. The SBA, which handles low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private non-profit organizations, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility and approval.
I don’t really want a loan. Do I still need to fill out the SBA application when I receive it?
Yes. If the home loan application is not returned, you may not be considered for some forms of disaster assistance. If you do not qualify for a home loan, you may be considered for other forms of assistance. You may qualify for the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program that is designed to help meet serious, disaster-related needs. However, you must complete and return the SBA loan application. If approved you are not obligated to accept the loan.
I rent an apartment. Can I get help to replace my damaged personal property? Yes. A renter also may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or grants from other sources to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing needs if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Other grants may cover eligible individuals or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other disaster-assistance programs.
I have insurance. Am I eligible for FEMA assistance? Yes. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster, but there are many things that insurance does not cover. This is where federal disaster programs may be able to help. You may find that some of your losses are not covered by insurance and disaster assistance can help. Residents who have earthquake insurance will not be inspected until they provide their insurance company’s statement of denial or proof of lack of coverage to FEMA.
Do I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance? No. If you have insurance, find out what your policy covers. Take pictures if you can and begin clean-up and repairs, keep estimates and receipts. But it is beneficial to register with FEMA as soon as you can in case you have disaster-related needs unmet by your insurance. FEMA allows 12 months from the date of registration to submit insurance documentation.
Deadline to register for assistance is March 5.
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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.