FEMA Addresses Common Misconceptions About Federal Disaster Assistance

December 11, 2013

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently issued a press release to clear up some of the common myths about registering for federal disaster assistance.

FEMA noted that in the aftermath of a disaster, misconceptions about disaster assistance can often prevent survivors from applying for help from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration. FEMA said that a good rule of thumb is to register, even if the applicants are unsure whether they will be eligible for assistance.

FEMA provides the following clarification on some common misunderstandings:

• Myth: “I’ve already cleaned up the damage to my home and had the repairs made. Isn’t it too late to register once the work is done?”

Fact: Disaster victims may be eligible for reimbursement of the cleanup and repair costs, even if repairs are complete.

• Myth: “I believe FEMA only makes loans so I didn’t apply for help because I don’t want a loan.”

Fact: FEMA only provides grants that do not have to be paid back. The grants may cover expenses for temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged personal property and other disaster-related needs such as medical, dental or transportation costs not covered by insurance or other programs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to renters, homeowners and businesses of all sizes. Some applicants may be contacted by SBA after registering with FEMA. While they are not obligated to take out a loan, if they don’t complete the application, they may not be considered for other federal grant programs.

• Myth: “I don’t want to apply for help because others had more damage than I had; they need the help more than I did.”

Fact: FEMA has enough funding to assist all eligible survivors with their disaster-related needs.

• Myth: “I’m a renter. I thought FEMA assistance was only for homeowners for home repairs.”

Fact: FEMA assistance is not just for homeowners. FEMA may provide assistance to help renters who lost personal property or who were displaced.

• Myth: “FEMA assistance could affect my Social Security benefits, taxes, food stamps or Medicaid.”

Fact: FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and is not considered taxable income.

• Myth: “I heard registration involves a lot of red tape and paperwork.”

Fact: There is no paperwork to register with FEMA. The process is very easy and normally takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

• Myth: “Since I received disaster assistance last year, I’m sure I can’t get it again this year.”

Fact: Assistance may be available for those who suffered damages from a new federally-declared disaster.

• Myth: “My income is probably too high for me to qualify for FEMA disaster assistance.”

Fact: Income is not a consideration for FEMA grant assistance. However, applicants will be asked financial questions during registration to help determine eligibility for SBA low-interest disaster loans.

Registering with FEMA cab be done online at DisasterAssistance.gov or with a mobile device by downloading the FEMA app or by visiting m.fema.gov. Applicants can also register over the phone by calling FEMA’s helpline, 800-621-FEMA (3362). Survivors who are deaf or hard of hearing and use a TTY can call 800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

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