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FEMA AID: Separating fact and fiction
03:31 PM CDT on Saturday, October 8, 2005
BATON ROUGE -- FEMA issued this second batch of questions and answers in an effort to dispel the "misleading rumors, half-truths and misunderstandings about available assistance" it says are floating around after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Recovery officials say they are concerned that unreliable word-of-mouth in distressed neighborhoods and communities may deprive eligible individuals and households of vital aid from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The last thing you need in a disaster is misinformation,” said State Coordinating Officer Col. Jeff Smith. “And the best way to avoid that problem is to call and ask for yourself just what kind of assistance is available to you.”
Residents who suffered damage and losses as a result of the hurricanes can apply for assistance immediately by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). People with a speech- or hearing-impairment can call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Both lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.
FEMA and the state clarified some of the most common misconceptions:
Myth: I received the $2,000 Expedited Assistance, now I won’t qualify for any other aid.
Truth: The Expedited Assistance you received was an advance of the total amount of assistance that you may be eligible for.
Myth: I did not receive the $2,000 Expedited Assistance, so I will be getting less.
Truth: If you did not receive expedited assistance, and if you are eligible, you can still receive the full amount of help through FEMA’s Transitional Housing, Rental Assistance, Other Needs Assistance, and Home Repair programs, and through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Myth: I have to return home before I can apply for disaster assistance.
Truth: You can apply from wherever you are at this time, whether you are staying with friends or family, or are sheltering with the American Red Cross or another organization. FEMA cannot help you until you register, so please register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585, or online by visiting www.fema.gov.
Myth: I already repaired my home. I don't need to apply.
Truth: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance.
Myth: I have to know exactly what the damage was before I can apply or get aid, and I can’t get to my home to see.
Truth: If you evacuated before the disaster and know your home was in a disaster area, report there was damage. You do not need to know the details. It will be presumed damage resulted from the storm. Do not say damages are unknown.
Myth: I have to be present when the inspector comes to have an inspection.
Truth: If you are not able to return home to meet an inspector, you can identify an “Authorized Agent” who can be present during the inspection, such as a trusted neighbor or relative. After you register, a FEMA inspector will contact you to schedule an appointment, and you can discuss this with the inspector. If you do not have someone in the area who can represent you, the inspector can offer an Authorized Agent who is a FEMA employee who can represent your interests.
Myth: I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan.
Truth: If you lived in a presidentially declared disaster parish, you are eligible to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA. If the SBA cannot approve your loan application, you may be referred to other agencies for additional assistance, but that can't happen if you don't return your application.
Myth: I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA.
Truth: The SBA low-interest disaster loan is the primary source of federal assistance for long-term recovery for homeowners, renters and business owners. SBA covers uninsured or underinsured losses for real estate damages as well as personal property damages.