February 21st, 2007 08:35 EST
Disaster Services Lighten The Recovery Load
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Unexpected crisis caused by disasters can leave individuals, families, and businesses devastated, making day-to-day cares of life a heavy burden. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT) are working hard to lighten the heavy load that comes with disasters.
State-FEMA funded programs offer a wide-range of services to assist the affected victims on the road to recovery. Some of those services include crisis counseling, disaster unemployment and disaster legal assistance. Other federal agencies offer disaster services such as IRS tax relief after a presidential declaration.
Crisis counseling for survivors reinforces the idea that emotional reactions to disasters are normal, helping survivors develop coping techniques. Through crisis counseling support and information, the majority of disaster survivors can pick up the pieces and go on with their lives. Individuals with needs that cannot be fully served through these programs are identified and referred to agencies that provide mental health treatment services. State-FEMA's disaster crisis counseling programs do not and are not intended to provide mental health treatment.
Referrals for counseling services are available via the phone, face-to-face or through home visits. Contact the Service Prevention Hotline number at 1-800-273-8255 for complete information, or call the FEMA help line at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)/TTY line at 1-800-462-7585 for the speech-and hearing impaired.
Florida residents who lost their source of income due to the destruction of the recent tornadoes may be able to claim federal unemployment benefits. The program is administered by Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation. Federal disaster unemployment can extend for as long as 26 weeks from the day the disaster is declared, and the deadline for applying is 30 days after public notification.
Claims may be filed at the One-Stop centers, state unemployment offices between 8:00 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., by phone (Florida’s Teleclaim System) at 1-800-204-2418, or on the Web at www.fluidnow.com. Filing on-line may be faster for most people, the website provides complete filing instructions.
Go to www.fluidnow.com, click on Internet Unemployment Compensation Claim Application, or click on the Guide to Completing Unemployment Compensation “Internet” Application. The “self-employed” are normally not eligible for unemployment compensation, but may be eligible for the disaster unemployment compensation.
Visit www.floridadisaster.org for the latest information on recovery efforts.
Disaster Legal Assistance:
FEMA helps provide for free disaster legal assistance to victims of the recent tornadoes. These no-cost legal services are offered through the Young
The local attorneys typically help with insurance claims for doctors and hospital bills, loss of property and loss of life, draw up new wills and other legal documents which may have been lost during the storms, give advice to landlords and tenants problems, prepare powers of attorneys, and help with guardianship or similar legal programs.
Contact Information: Florida Disaster Legal Service at 1-866-550-2929, or Florida State Bar Association at 1-800-342-8060.
Disaster IRS Tax Relief:
Casualty losses can result from the destruction of or damage to your property from any sudden, unexpected, and unusual event such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, and fire. The IRS is offering tax relief to the affected victims in tornado-damaged areas. The IRS will extend your deadline or allow you to amend your previous year’s taxes. You may go online to www.irs.gov/taxtopics for specific information.
Adjust Your Losses: If your business or income-producing property is completely destroyed or stolen, the decrease in fair market value is not considered. Your loss is the adjusted basis of the property, minus any salvage value and any insurance or other reimbursement you receive or expect to receive.
For more information regarding casualty losses of personal–use property and how to deduct them, refer to Topic 507 and Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts.
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.