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Commonly Asked Questions on the Road to Recovery


CONTACTS: NR # 79 DR-1491-VA
FEMA/VDEM News Desk - (804) 217-8952 Colleen M. Hiam, SBA - (716) 282-4612 ext. 202


RICHMOND, VA - According to state and federal disaster recovery officials, the best source for information following a disaster is to talk with federal, state and voluntary agencies about the kinds of assistance available to you.


Individuals who suffered damages and losses from Hurricane Isabel can still apply for assistance and get answers to questions by calling the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) toll-free application and Helpline number at: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for speech or hearing impaired. Both lines are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., seven days a week. Individuals can also visit any of the Disaster Recovery Centers that have been set up throughout the state. The deadline to register for assistance is Nov. 17, 2003.


Common questions about disaster assistance:


Q: I have applied for disaster assistance before; do I need to apply again?

A: Yes. Even if you have applied for assistance on a previous disaster, you must apply again to be considered for help from Hurricane Isabel.


Q: Will the FEMA assistance I receive come out of my Social Security check?

A. No. Assistance funds do not come out of Social Security funds and will not affect your monthly Social Security check.


Q: If I got help from the American Red Cross, can I also get help from FEMA or the state?

A. Yes. FEMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) coordinate a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross and other voluntary agencies.


Q: When I get help from the American Red Cross, am I automatically registered with FEMA?

A. No. Registration with the American Red Cross is not the same as registering with FEMA. For federal and state disaster assistance, you must register by calling the FEMA toll-free registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585. The deadline to register is November 17, 2003.


Q: Is there enough money for everyone? My neighbor needs the money more than I do.

A: Yes. There are enough disaster funds to take care of every eligible applicant.-more-


Q: Do I have to be poor to qualify for disaster aid?

A. No. Federal and state disaster assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damage, regardless of income. The kinds of help provided depend on the applicant's circumstances and unmet needs.


Q: Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan?

A: No. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility. The SBA will decide whether or not you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a loan, you may be eligible for other assistance, but it is necessary to go through the SBA application process first.


Q: Do I have to own a business to apply for a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration?

A: No. In a presidential declaration, the SBA is the primary source of financial assistance. Homeowners may be eligible for low-interest loans for both real and personal property losses, based on the type and extent of uninsured or underinsured disaster-related losses. Renters may be eligible for loans for personal property losses. Businesses and non-profits may be eligible for uninsured physical losses, and small businesses may be eligible for working capital loans.


Q: If I rent an apartment, can I get help to replace my damaged personal property?

Yes. A renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or cash grant from sources other than SBA, to replace personal property. One type of grant offered through FEMA may cover temporary housing needs if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Another type of grant may be available to an eligible household with serious disaster-related needs and expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs.


Q: If I'm self-employed and out of work, can I qualify for disaster unemployment benefits?

A: Possibly. Disaster Unemployment Assistance, funded by FEMA and administered by the Virginia Employment Commission, provides weekly benefit payments to those who are out of work due to the disaster and are not covered by regular unemployment assistance. This program includes self-employed persons and others not normally covered under regular unemployment insurance programs. This program also provides help in finding job training and work. The Virginia Employment Commission administers this program and determines eligibility. The deadline to apply for disaster unemployment assistance is Friday, Oct. 24, 2003. Contact your local office for more information.


On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.



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