Disaster Relief: Financial Assistance Options
Experts we've interviewed say that the severity of a natural disaster affects the time it takes to receive financial assistance.
WHN Expert Tip: Disaster Assistance
Anyone affected by a federal disaster can apply for disaster assistance — you don't need to have insurance. Read Filing for Federal Disaster Relief for information on calling for relief and the types of federal and state assistance available.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
If your area is declared a federal disaster area, the main source for financial assistance is Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA — (800) 621-FEMA (3362)
For speech-or hearing-impaired — (TTY) (800) 462-7585
Or register online.
You'll be assigned a registration identification number.
Ask how long it will take for your registration to be processed.
WHN Tip: Don't apply twice. According to FEMA, registering more than once delays your application.
In most cases, a FEMA inspector will telephone to make an appointment to visit your damaged home and assess the losses. Write down:
- Inspector's name
- Date(s) of calls
- Date(s) and time(s) of appointment(s)
- Expected actions from you and from the inspector
- Best way to reach him/her
- Where they are based in the area
WHN Expert Tip: Home Inspection
It is not required that you be present for the inspection. You can make arrangements with the inspector for someone else to go through the house in your absence — either a designated relative, friend over 18 years of age or a FEMA representative.
Day of FEMA Inspection
FEMA lists the following points to remember during inspections:
Identification: Generally, FEMA staff in the field wear blue short-sleeved collared t-shirts with the letters FEMA in white over the right breast. They also wear blue long-sleeved plastic windbreakers with FEMA across the back and blue hats with FEMA across the top. When not working a disaster, FEMA staff in headquarters and wear business attire.
WHN Staff Tip: Don't rely on clothing insignias alone for identification. Ask to see photo identification badge. (They all have them.)
FEMA Equipment: All FEMA inspectors carry a hand-held computer with information about the person whose household is being inspected. The computer is only for FEMA programs and has no use to anyone else.
Your Information: Show proof of occupancy and proof of ownership (house deed, lease agreement, electric/gas/water bill, bank statement, voter registration, etc.).
Remember — FEMA inspectors do not determine any dollar amounts. They only inspect and document damage. They also do not carry money or ask for money.
Go to USDA - Disaster Assistance Programs for more information. The Farm Service Agency provides assistance for natural disaster losses, resulting from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, pest infestation, and other calamities.
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