Federal and state officials announced a new initiative to further assist residents of the most-devastated Katrina-hit regions of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Disaster applicants from the states’ hardest-hit areas began receiving calls from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to gather additional information to establish whether households qualified for an eligibility determination without a physical home inspection.
“Initial calls are reaching out to 50,000 to 60,000 applicants from heavily impacted areas of Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Vice Admiral Thad Allen, principal federal official and federal coordinating officer for the hurricane recovery effort. “Uninsured individuals who cannot repay loans may be eligible for full assistance under FEMA’s grant program. These call outs are intended to quickly help those in need.”
Individuals may be notified on the initial call if an eligibility determination has been made regarding what assistance they will receive. In some cases, FEMA may require additional processing to make the determination. FEMA operators will gather basic information and, for verification purposes, federal officials will ask for the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number. Residents may request details about their specific case to verify they are talking to an official agency representative.
“We applaud this new initiative to rapidly deliver assistance to Louisiana residents who lost so much,” said State Coordinating Officer for the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Col. Jeff Smith. “This method of determining eligibility is truly innovative and will deliver immediate disaster funds to those who need help right away.”
Applicants will also receive a letter in the mail stating the amount of assistance to be granted and how the funds may be used.
Those applicants who receive this assistance will not need to have a home inspection from FEMA. However, just like all recipients of FEMA assistance, these individuals may have their eligibility confirmed at a later date as part of FEMA’s quality control process.
The funds received through this determination will represent the balance of assistance people will be eligible for and are intended to help those from the areas of Hurricane Katrina’s greatest impact to begin their recovery by securing longer-term housing and replacing personal property.
Disaster-recovery officials urge residents of the hardest-hit parishes and counties to be patient, stating it may take several weeks for representatives to reach all households. Disaster applicants in those areas who have not heard from FEMA in four weeks may call the FEMA Helpline to inquire about their status: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY for people who are speech- or hearing-impaired, 1-800-462-7585.
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