Expanding its capacity to respond to disaster assistance requests from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received nearly 2.1 million applications for disaster assistance as of Sept. 30, 2005, surpassing the record 1.9 million total applications received throughout all of 2004, mostly as a result of last year’s hurricane season.
It took only a one month time frame to surpass last year’s record intake of applications. From Aug. 29, 2005 through Sept. 30, 2005, more than 1.9 million applications for federal disaster assistance were received by FEMA from victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In the height of activity, on Tuesday, Sept. 13, disaster assistance registrations reached a daily peak of 101,363. Prior to 2005, the most applications registered in a single day were 44,112.
As of Oct. 4, nearly 1.1 million households have been approved by FEMA for assistance, receiving over $3.1 billion in individual and other needs assistance. As the agency continues to process applications, completes inspections and verifies additional information from applicants, the number of approved households is expected rise.
To meet the heightened demand for assistance following Katrina and Rita, FEMA:
* Increased its total of phone agent staff from 700 to 10,000 in a matter of 19 days;
* Enlisted IRS and private industry call response centers to establish 18 call centers nationwide;
* Expanded its internet capacity to accommodate up to 24,000 assistance applications per hour; and
* Began providing 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week online and phone assistance on Monday, Aug. 29, the day a major disaster declaration was made opening assistance to individuals.
Through its www.FEMA.gov Web site and its 1-800-621-FEMA helpline, FEMA enables applicants to both register for assistance and track the status of their application.
Once registered, individuals can check the status of their application and update their address and other information online by creating an Access Account to review personal file information such as the status of an eligibility determination. This service is available for those who registered both via phone and online.
Using the Access Account feature allows individuals to monitor step-by-step processing of claims. Through online access, the feature also helps reduce phone traffic on the helpline, making it more possible for FEMA to respond to most urgent and critical individual assistance needs.
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