March 13th, 2007 04:55 EST
Disaster Housing Assistance Available; No Need to Delay Cleanup of Damaged Property
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Individuals and families whose homes were damaged as a result of the tornadoes of March 1 may be eligible for disaster housing assistance, according to disaster recovery officials. Housing assistance is one of the programs available to Alabama residents in Coffee, Wilcox, Henry, Dale, Montgomery and Dallas counties.
The disaster housing program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides two types of assistance:
Grants are available in the form of rental assistance for owners or tenants whose homes were destroyed or substantially damaged and are uninhabitable, and to those who have been without utilities for five days or more. Rental assistance can be for apartments, houses and other rental property; and
Grants are available for home repairs for homeowners to make their primary residence habitable. Examples of work can include essential repairs to electrical, plumbing, heating, and mechanical systems, as well as general carpentry to make a home safe and habitable.
These grants are not intended to completely restore a home to its pre-disaster condition, nor are they intended for cosmetic repairs or repairs covered by insurance. To qualify for a home repair grant, the applicants must be owner-occupants and the damaged property must be their primary residence.
Residents who apply to FEMA for disaster assistance can expect to hear from an inspector who will schedule a visit to look at the damaged property. Be sure to be available for the scheduled appointment.
There's no need to wait for a FEMA inspector's visit before cleaning up. While not required, it may be helpful to photograph the damage prior to cleanup. You should also keep receipts for completed repairs or materials purchased. This includes chainsaws, generators, dehumidifiers, and any other items necessary to accomplish the task. If you hire someone, keep those receipts too.
Anyone who sustained damages or losses in a disaster-declared county may register for disaster assistance by calling FEMA's toll-free number at (800) 621-FEMA (3362) , or for hearing impaired TTY (800) 462-7585 , Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Those affected by the disaster may also visit a nearby Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) where they can talk face-to-face with relief workers about the kinds of assistance that may be available to them.
People who have questions about disaster assistance programs, the status of an application for assistance, or the locations of Disaster Recovery Centers, may also call the FEMA toll-free number for answers.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, economic status or retaliation. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, you should call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or contact your State Office of Equal rights. If suspicious of any abuse of FEMA programs, please contact the fraud hotline at 1-800-323-8603.