Floridians Urged to Apply for Disaster Assistance by Jan. 19 Deadline

January 18, 2006

Thursday is the deadline for Floridians to apply for federal and state disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT).

There are two easy ways to begin the application process. Residents may call FEMA’s toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Both numbers are available 24 hours a day seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are also available to answer calls. Residents with Internet access may register online at www.fema.gov , where valuable recovery information is also available.

Applications for assistance made on or before Jan. 19 may be updated and will continue to be processed after the application deadline. Helpline representatives (at the toll-free numbers listed above) are available 24/7 to answer questions about assistance or to check the status of a caller’s application.

“We want to make sure every Floridian has had the opportunity to apply for and receive the assistance for which he or she is eligible,” Justin DeMello, federal coordinating officer, said. “Don’t make assumptions about whether or not you’re eligible; call and apply by January 19.”

Individuals with insurance may be eligible for disaster assistance for under-insured losses, so they should apply before the deadline even if they have not received their insurance settlement. However, in order for individuals to receive assistance, FEMA will need the insurance settlement information to avoid any duplication of benefits.

“The state team is committed to working with our federal partners in meeting the needs of Floridians who were affected by Hurricane Wilma,” Craig Fugate, state coordinating officer, said. “We want to be as thorough as possible in this vital endeavor.”

Assistance available to disaster victims includes grants for temporary disaster housing, grants to repair disaster-damaged and uninsured homes to bring them to a safe and sanitary living condition and assistance for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may provide eligible applicants with low-interest disaster loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property.

Thursday, Jan. 19 is the final day to apply for disaster assistance for all those affected by Hurricane Wilma in the following disaster-designated counties:

* Brevard
* Broward
* Collier
* Glades
* Hendry
* Indian River
* Lee
* Martin
* Miami-Dade
* Monroe
* Okeechobee
* Palm Beach
* St. Lucie.

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