Misinterpretation May Cause Some to Miss Mass. Disaster Aid

November 15, 2005

Federal and state disaster recovery officials are reportedly concerned that residents and business-owners applying for aid in disaster-declared Massachusetts counties may be providing inaccurate responses during the registration process.

This is due to a misinterpretation of a standard question asked during registration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ” Do you have damage to your dwelling?”

Officials wish to avoid those who sustained damage as a result of the Oct. 7-16 severe storms and flooding from being needlessly disqualified for aid because of a misunderstanding during the tele-registration process. The disaster-declared counties are Berkshire, Bristol , Franklin , Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk , Plymouth and Worcester .

Residents and business owners are urged to begin the application process as soon as possible by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY), for the hearing and speech impaired. Registration can also be done online at www.fema.gov. Lines will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until further notice.

Common answers and clarifications: ” Do you have damage to your dwelling?”

No, I do not have damage because I have already made repairs and renovations to fix the damage.

You may qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance. This includes repair, replacement and permanent housing construction. Damages to essential personal property, (i.e. furnaces, water heaters, washers and dryers, and freezers) may also qualify for some form of state/federal assistance.

I only had damage to my well and septic tank, not to my actual home.
Homeowners in declared areas may be eligible for grant funding to pump septic tanks, perform required repairs or replace the system as needed. Damaged private wells that are the sole source of water for the home also may be repaired or decontaminated.

A powerful stream of water altered the landscape of my property, but my house did not sustain damages.

In order to be eligible for housing assistance, you must have sustained damages to your primary residence — this does not include landscaping. If the erosion is threatening the home, however, you may qualify for aid.

One of the goals of the Individuals and Households Program is to provide money to the homeowner to repair the home to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition.

“If you think you have provided incorrect information during your initial registration, call again to have it corrected,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Peter Martinasco. “When in doubt, call our toll-free registration number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to learn for yourself just what kind of assistance may be available to you and how to access it. “In order to expedite the process of getting aid to those who need it, we must have accurate information.”

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