FEMA: How it works and how to reach them

- FEMA is offering individual assistance to victims of Hurricane Irma in counties covered by the disaster declaration. However, that does not currently include all counties in our Tampa Bay viewing area that took some of the hardest hits from hurricane Irma.

This is because FEMA is still in the early phases of assessing damage, and has not completed the surveys in some counties that serve as a precursor to determining eligibility for individual assistance.

The zone has expanded as FEMA inspects the region, and may continue to expand.

Meanwhile, FEMA does not yet have mobile disaster recovery centers in place, but people who need help can reach out to FEMA online or by phone.

MORE: FEMA offers help to Irma victims in some counties

People can register for help through DisasterAssistance.Gov or through the FEMA App. People who do not have Internet access may call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). A disaster inspector will schedule a visit to properties in areas covered by the declaration. FEMA urges applicants to note whether the home is safe to enter. 

"Please don't wait for disaster recovery centers to open. Register for FEMA assistance now as soon as it is safe to do so," said FEMA spokesman John Mills. "Damage assessments are ongoing, and additional counties based on those damage assessments may be added to the disaster declaration."

LINK: FEMA's disaster declaration for Florida
LINK: FEMA updates on the declaration and eligibility for individual assistance

Much of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma will be covered by private homeowner's insurance or flood insurance. FEMA helps people who do not have insurance, or helps fill gaps for what insurance does not cover. It offers low-interest disaster loans, grants for home repairs, temporary housing support and other assistance depending on the extent of damage and circumstances.

"FEMA has been a great partner," said Governor Rick Scott. "What the president gave us with the major declaration is going to help our families get back to a normal life as fast as possible."

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