Federal and state agencies are working in partnership to help Alabama residents recover following the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis.
Most federal disaster assistance programs are designed to meet emergency needs in the form of disaster grants for immediate housing requirements and emergency repairs. These programs are meant to help people begin their recovery; they are not designed to return people’s lives to their pre-disaster conditions.
By contrast, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) help homeowners, renters and business owners repair or replace their disaster-related damages. SBA is the primary source of long-term disaster recovery loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes.
Understanding the steps of the federal/state recovery process can help people reduce the confusion brought on by disaster, sort out the information available, and make the decisions required to begin rebuilding lives.
APPLYING FOR FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE
The only way to apply for federal assistance is to call the special toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with hearing or speech impairment. Both phone lines are available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and multilingual operators are available when necessary. Individuals may also register for disaster assistance at the FEMA website www.fema.gov.
Your call is confidential under the Privacy Act of 1974, and the information will be used only to determine what type of assistance is most appropriate. This call is your application and usually takes only 15-20 minutes to complete. You will be asked general information about your income, your insurance and how badly your residence or business was damaged. You should give details about your housing needs. You will be given an application number, which will help locate your application in the system in the future. Write this number down so you will have it handy.
THE ASSISTANCE PROCESS
Within a few days, a FEMA inspector will call you to arrange an appointment to visit your damaged home or apartment. The inspection is mandatory. Before an application can be completed and approved, the location must be inspected to verify the nature and extent of damage suffered by those who have registered for federal disaster assistance.
You will be asked to sign a document stating that you were lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of the disaster and you will be asked to provide proper identification. Inspectors will be able to show you official identification to prove their identity. If an inspector asking for access to your home cannot show you a photo ID, do not let them into your home and call your local law enforcement agency. Damage inspectors do not recommend repairs or charge for their services.
If you qualify for FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, you will receive a grant check and separate letter explaining how you may use the check. You may get checks from other programs later. You may be provided a grant for rental assistance if your home or apartment is unlivable because of the disaster. Homeowners may use FEMA housing repair grants for essential repairs to make the residence safe and secure. The housing repair grant is only for repairs to make primary rooms functional, such as the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
Disaster Recovery Centers may be located in your area to provide a place you can ask questions and talk with disaster recovery specialists face-to-face. Call 1 800 621-FEMA (3362) for locations. FEMA assistance does not make you whole again, but we can give you a helping hand on the road to recovery.
THE SBA PROCESS
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may send you a loan application after you make that first call to 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1 800 462-7585 to apply. Even if you feel that you can not afford a loan, it is very important to complete and return this application. If the SBA is unable to approve a loan for a homeowner or renter, the applicant may be automatically referred to other available disaster assistance programs, including grants. You can receive face-to-face help in filling out the SBA loan application at any Disaster Recovery Center. For the nearest location, call the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster.
SBA low-interest disaster loans are for homeowners, renters, landlords, business owners and non-profit organizations that suffered damage or loss due to the disaster. Loan terms on all loans can be up to 30 years. Actual loan amounts and terms are set by SBA.
Qualified homeowners can borrow up to $200,000 for real estate repairs. Homeowners and renters may qualify to borrow up to $40,000 for replacement of disaster-damaged personal property. Businesses and non-profit organizations may apply for up to $1.5 million for losses not fully covered by insurance. Loans are made for the repair or replacement of real estate and personal property. Borrowers with an approved loan may borrow up to 20% more from SBA to fund mitigation measures that keep the same type of damage from occurring again.
TYPES OF ASSISTANCE THAT ARE PROVIDED:
TEMPORARY HOUSING – Money to rent a different place to live or a temporary housing unit, when rental properties are not available.
REPAIR – Money for homeowners to repair damage from the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to make the damaged home safe and secure. The homeowner may need to apply for an SBA low-interest loan before receiving other assistance.
OTHER NEEDS ASSISTANCE – Money for necessary and serious needs caused by the disaster. This includes medical, dental, funeral, personal property, transportation, and other expenses that FEMA approves.
After you have applied for assistance, the FEMA Helpline, which is toll-free at, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585, is a very useful resource. You may ask about the status of your application, how money from various assistance programs may be used, get information on the flood insurance program, or get materials on low-cost ways to reduce future disaster damages.
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