Common Misconceptions May Disqualify N.J. Applicants from Much Needed Help

May 3, 2005

Following a disaster, misleading rumors, half-truths and misunderstandings about available assistance may cause some New Jersey residents to disqualify themselves from much-needed help.

“Misinformation in disaster-damaged neighborhoods and communities may deprive eligible individuals and households of vital aid”, said State Coordinating Officer, Karl Kleeberg.

Questions and concerns can also be addressed at any of the open Disaster Recovery Centers located in Gloucester, Harmony Township, Little Falls, Stockton, and Trenton.

“The last thing anyone needs in a disaster is misinformation,” said Dorothy Ower, deputy federal coordinating officer. “And the best way to avoid that problem is to call FEMA and find out just what kind of assistance may be available.”

Individuals can begin the disaster application process by calling the application/Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Both phone lines are open Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sun. until further notice. Multilingual operators are available to assist callers. Registration is also available at

Listed below are clarifications of some of the most common misconceptions:

* I have insurance, so there is no other help available.
Not True: FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, but you may be eligible for help with losses not covered. That’s why it is important to register for assistance even while you are working with your insurance company to assess your insurance coverage.

* I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
Not True: Don’t wait for an adjuster before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house livable. However, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. If possible, take photos of the damage before you clean or make repairs.

* I already repaired my home. I don’t need to apply.
Not True: You might qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance.

* I received help from the Red Cross, so now I can’t get help from FEMA or the state.
Not True: FEMA and NJOEM coordinate programs to help disaster victims. Red Cross and other voluntary agencies provide emergency food, clothing, shelter, and other emergency needs.

* I received help from the Red Cross, so I’m already registered with FEMA.
Not True: Registration with the Red Cross is not the same as registration with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must first apply by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 (TTY) or online at

* I must have a low income to qualify for disaster aid.
Not True: The specific help provided depends on each applicant’s circumstances. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income. These programs are not “welfare.”

* I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan.
Not True: If you live in a designated county, you are eligible to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). If SBA cannot approve the loan application, you may be referred to other agencies for additional assistance; however, you must return the application for consideration of any additional assistance. You can receive face-to-face help in filling out the SBA loan application at any Disaster Recovery Center or SBA Workshop. For the nearest location, call the SBA Helpline at 1-800-659-2955

* I must own a business to apply for a loan from the SBA.
Not True: The SBA low-interest loan is the primary source of federal assistance for long-term recovery for homeowners, renters and businesses of any size. SBA covers uninsured or otherwise uncompensated losses for real estate damages as well as personal property damages.

* I rent an apartment. I can’t get help.
Not True: Renters may receive temporary housing if they had to move out because of disaster damage or loss. Additionally, a renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan for personal property damaged or receive funds to cover other serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs. The loan application must be returned for consideration of any additional assistance.

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