Disaster officials are urging residents of Alabama’s 11 disaster-declared counties and evacuees to take advantage of the 60 additional days they’ve been given to register for federal and state financial assistance in recovering from losses caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The extension to March 11 was granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the state’s request, as calls to the toll-free registration line continue to be made daily since it opened four months ago. Registration is in its second extension.
“As long we continue to hear from people who need disaster assistance we want to make it available,” said Michael Bolch of FEMA, the official in charge of federal recovery operations. To date more than 114,000 registrations have been received.
Bruce Baughman, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said registering is a positive step. “There is no reason for anyone who sustained hurricane losses not to make that call and get whatever assistance they are eligible to receive.”
Baughman stressed that disaster assistance is not considered income and is not taxable. Disaster grants do not have to be paid back. Disaster loans are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan program at low interest rates.
Officials said in every disaster there are people who don’t register because they have home insurance and don’t think they are eligible. Many later find damage that was uninsured or under-insured and realize they’ve missed their chance at assistance because registration has closed.
Alabama residents and evacuees living in Alabama who have not registered for assistance should call the toll-free registration line, 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing-impaired. The lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and multilingual operators are available to take calls. Applications can also be completed on line at www.fema.gov.
Once registered, an applicant’s eligibility for a number of programs is evaluated. These include:
The Individuals and Households program makes assistance available to eligible applicants for temporary housing, such as financial aid for rent or emergency repair grants of up to $5,200 for homeowners with uninsured or underinsured disaster-related damages to their primary residence.
FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance (ONA) grants help people with disaster-related expenses not met through insurance or other programs. Eligible items include medical, dental and funeral expenses; furniture, clothing and essential transportation.
The SBA loan program provides low-interest disaster loans to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available up to $200,000 for primary residences and $40,000 for personal property. Loans of up to $1.5 million are available for business property losses.
Voluntary Agencies also work with individuals and families on needs not fully met by the state, FEMA or SBA.
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