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Published:February 12th, 2007 08:29 EST

FEMA Disaster Officials Offer Tips to Speed Assistance

By SOP newswire

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Disaster recovery officials encourage residents and businesses dealing with tornado damage and loss to adopt a take-charge action plan to help speed the possibility of obtaining state and federal disaster aid:

  • Register as soon as possible . Homeowners, renters, and business owners who suffered losses must call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registration line at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to be eligible for disaster assistance. Individuals with hearing or speech impairments should call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 .
  • Register, even if you are insured . Your insurance coverage may not be adequate and some foundation damage may not show up until later. Anyone who suffered any damage or loss should register for assistance.
  • Remember, disaster assistance covers a wide range of losses . Disaster-related damage or loss of essential personal property, anything from a wheelchair to a major appliance, may qualify for some form of federal/state assistance.
  • Stay in touch and keep appointments after you have registered for disaster assistance . A FEMA inspector will make an appointment to visit your home, usually within two to three days. Make every effort to be at home or call to change the appointment by using the FEMA Helpline also at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) , (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 .
  • Visit a Disaster Recovery Center if you have questions or need more information . Six centers are open throughout all four affected counties. Each center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. , until further notice.
  • Return all forms promptly . After registering, you may receive a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loan application package in the mail. Fill out and return these forms promptly since they are an essential part of the disaster-assistance process.
  • Rebuild with disaster prevention in mind . If you receive an emergency housing repair grant from FEMA, a follow-up letter will arrive after you receive your check. That letter will identify the purpose of the grant and will highlight the need to make repairs that will lessen the risks of future losses.

What to Expect After Registration:

Floridians deemed eligible for disaster assistance will receive a letter from the FEMA providing guidance on their disaster relief grant.

If you receive a letter, FEMA will tell you about ways the money can be spent in your recovery. It will also explain that federal assistance may have to be repaid if it is duplicated by insurance or any other assistance you receive.

Remember disaster assistance is not expected to restore you to your pre-disaster condition. It is intended to help you get safe and sanitary housing and meet your other critical needs so you can begin your long-term recovery.

You can call the helpline for answers to your questions about federal assistance, the same number you called to register for aid. If you are not satisfied with FEMA's decision on your application, an appeal can be filed in writing to FEMA Appeals Officer, National Processing Service Center , P. O. Box 10055 , Hyattsville, Md. 20782 .

Appeals must be filed with 60 days of the date of the FEMA letter.

Before starting any repairs or reconstruction, check with local building officials on what permits and inspections might be needed. If you were displaced from your home and incurred hotel or motel expenses, save those receipts and check with FEMA on how you might be reimbursed.

File your insurance claim as soon as possible. Failure to file within 12 months can affect your eligibility for FEMA assistance. Call FEMA if your insurance settlement is delayed, if it does not cover your loss, if you can't find rental housing in your area or if your additional living expense benefit is exhausted.

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.

FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

Source:FEMA