FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DISASTER ASSISTANCE
Who should apply for federal disaster assistance?
Homeowners, renters and business owners in nine disaster-designated parishes — Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John and St. Tammany — who sustained uninsured or underinsured Isaac-related damage to their homes, vehicles, personal property, business or its inventory beginning Aug. 26, 2012, can now register with FEMA for assistance.
How do I apply?
There are several ways to apply for disaster assistance. Residents can apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362. Those with speech or hearing impairments should call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Users of 711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call 1-800-621-3362.
What kinds of assistance are available?
Disaster assistance can include grants to rent a place to live temporarily, for emergency housing repairs, for uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, along with other disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.
Am I eligible for Individual Assistance if I already have insurance?
You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find that you are underinsured or have unmet needs after your insurance settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, please do this as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are many things that insurance does not cover, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply to the SBA. SBA will process your application subject to your insurance settlement.
I have applied. What happens next?
After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.
If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.
The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to cover the uncompensated losses for personal contents up to $40,000 for both homeowners and renters and up to $200,000 for homeowners for physical damage to their primary residence. The SBA also provides low-interest loans up to $2 million for uncompensated physical losses suffered by businesses of any size and private, non-profit organizations. Additionally, working capital loans are available for economic injuries sustained by small businesses, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size in the designated counties and the neighboring counties (regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage). The maximum business disaster loan is $2 million for any combination of property damage and working capital.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, homeowners or renters must complete and submit an SBA loan application to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive Individual Assistance?
Yes. To be eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance grants you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a qualified alien. A qualified alien generally includes individuals who are lawful permanent residents (possessing a “green card”) or those with refugee or asylum status. Qualified aliens include those permitted in the United States for at least one year for humanitarian purposes, those with conditional entry, those who are Cuban-Haitian entrants and those with petitions for relief based on battery or extreme cruelty by a family member. Check with an immigration expert if you have questions about your legal status.
Is there any assistance available for undocumented immigrants?
You may apply for Individual Assistance on behalf of your child who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. Another adult household member may qualify for household assistance if he or she is a documented immigrant. You may also be eligible under different programs run by state, local or voluntary agencies for various types of cash assistance. An undocumented immigrant may be eligible for short-term, non-cash emergency aid provided by FEMA.
How can I check the status of my case?
Applicants may visit a local Disaster Recovery Center, go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing or speech impaired. Make sure you have your registration number handy