How to apply for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Irma

- FEMA is offering individual assistance to victims of Hurricane Irma in counties covered by the disaster declaration. The zone for individual assistance has expanded throughout the week, and may continue to expand. Individuals seeking assistance form FEMA have 60 days to register dating back to the date of the disaster declaration.

Link to FEMA's disaster declaration for Florida: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4337

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.

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. 

Link to FEMA updates on the declaration and eligibility for individual assistance: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4337/updates-blog-and-news

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 (including medical, dental, child care, funeral and burial, essential household items, storage and vehicle assistance) depending on the extent of damage and circumstances.

RELATED: FEMA OFFICERS HELP TO MANY FLORIDA COUNTIES

FEMA spells out specifics of in a news release as follows:

-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, municipality 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 available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.  (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)

-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. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)

-Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.  (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans' benefits and social security matters.

RELATED: FALSE FEMA INFORMATION CIRCULATING THE INTERNET

FEMA does not provide assistance for secondary homes and does not directly provide support for businesses impacted by natural disasters. For businesses it partners with the Small Business Administration, which offers low-interest loans for businesses that have been damaged.

Here is the list of documentation individuals need in order to register:

Social Security number
Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
Current mailing address
Current telephone number
Insurance information
Total household annual income
Routing and account number for your checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into your bank account).
A description of your disaster-caused damage and losses


After an individual registers with FEMA for assistance, FEMA will call within to schedule a visit from an inspector (FEMA notes it will call within ten days, but that may take longer in the event of a catastrophic disaster). If an individual is approved, he/she will receive a check by mail or direct deposit with instructions noting how the funds should be spent (keep receipts for at least three years). Individuals who are not approved are given an opportunity to appeal.

FEMA also urges people to avoid scam artists, by asking FEMA contracted inspectors to present their FEMA ID card, and never provide credit card or bank account information. FEMA also charges no fees for inspections.

The process for registering generally takes 20-minutes (not including gathering of required documentation), and up to 40 minutes for an on-site home inspection.

RELATED: Post-Irma tips on how to avoid federal fraud

Here is a list of questions and answers provided by FEMA: 

Q: What kinds of FEMA grants are available?
A: Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, along with other serious disaster-related expenses.

Q: What happens after I register?
A: You will receive a phone call from a FEMA inspector to arrange for a survey of the damages. This will come just days after you register. All FEMA inspectors will have official identification. They do not approve or deny claims or requests; those come after the inspection results are submitted. FEMA inspectors do not ask for money and do not recommend contractors to make repairs.

Q.  I've already cleaned up and made repairs to my property.  Am I still eligible to register with FEMA?
A.  Yes. You may be eligible for reimbursement of your clean-up and repair expenses. Before and after photos of the damaged property can help expedite your application for assistance.

Q: Does my income need to be under a certain dollar amount to qualify for disaster aid?
A: FEMA's Housing Assistance program is available, regardless of income, to anyone who suffered damages or losses in disaster-declared counties. However, aid for other losses such as personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses is income-dependent and officials make decisions on a case-by-case basis. To be considered for a grant for these types of losses, the applicant must complete an application for an SBA loan. 

Q.  I have flood insurance.  Should I still register with FEMA?
A.  Yes.  But please contact your insurance company first.

Q: Does the Small Business Administration (SBA) offer loans to homeowners and renters?
A: Yes. The SBA is the primary source of financial assistance following a disaster and provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and renters.

Q: Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan?
A: No. The SBA has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant's eligibility.

Q: If I rent an apartment, can I get help to replace my damaged personal property?
A: Yes. Renters may qualify for a FEMA grant. Renters may also qualify for SBA disaster loans.

Q: Will FEMA pay for all home repairs or contract work?
A: No. FEMA does not pay to return your home to its pre-disaster condition. FEMA provides grants to qualified homeowners to repair damage not covered by insurance, but these grants may not pay for all the damage. However, an SBA disaster loan may return a home to its pre-disaster condition.

Q: Do I have to repay money I receive for disaster relief?
A: No. You do not have to repay grant money, however SBA disaster loans must be repaid.

Q: Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive Individual Assistance?
A: No. If you have a child living at home who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien, you may apply for Individual Assistance on that child's behalf and you may be eligible to receive Individual Assistance. FEMA may provide undocumented, eligible immigrants with short-term, non-cash emergency aid.

MORE: 

HOW TO REACH FEMA

FEMA LAUNCHES RUMOR CONTROL PAGE

WARNING: CALLERS PRETEND TO BE FEMA

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