published Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

FEMA spokesman shares answers

Here are answers to common questions about assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, compiled from interviews with FEMA spokesmen Greg Hughes and Don Bolger.

Q: How does a person first apply for help from FEMA?

A: Anyone affected by storm damage should call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online at www.disaster assistance.gov or www.fema.gov. Registration also can be done at a disaster recovery center, but registering ahead of a visit can speed the process. A list of the nearest disaster recovery centers can be found at http://asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/mobile.htm.

Q: What kind of temporary assistance does FEMA offer for those who lost homes in the storms?

A: Funding for temporary housing (for at least three months and possibly up to 18 months) is available. FEMA will not provide mobile homes in the Chattanooga area but will cover costs for rent, because of the amount of available housing in the area. The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help buy food is available. Uninsured medical and funeral costs also may be covered.

Q: Can FEMA help replace homes and other items destroyed by the storm?

A: FEMA can provide up to $30,200 in total funding for uninsured items, temporary housing and food, but most claims will not receive that much funding. Assistance to repair mechanical damage to one vehicle per household may be provided. Any items that are insured will not be covered.

Q: Will someone who has a job qualify for FEMA assistance?

A: It does not matter if someone has a job — they will receive the same assistance as someone who is unemployed. Income is not a factor in determining assistance, but household size is a factor.

Q: Will FEMA help people who have insurance?

A: Everyone should register with FEMA immediately. Insurance claims will need to be settled first, but FEMA can provide assistance for items not covered by insurance. After an insurance claim is settled, people should contact FEMA to provide updated information about losses that were not covered.

Q: What does a denial letter mean?

A: A denial letter does not necessarily mean a person will not receive any money. It may mean FEMA needs additional information or will wait until an insurance claim is settled. Read the entire letter to find out why the claim was denied. Any denials can be appealed.

Q: What is a Small Business Administration loan?

A: The loan provides money for rebuilding homes at a low interest rate. FEMA officials urge everyone to apply for a small business loan, even if they are not sure if they want to take out a loan. If someone is rejected for a loan, they will be referred back to FEMA, where they may be able to receive additional help under the unmet needs category.

Q: What type of FEMA workers may come to someone’s home?

A: Community relations teams visit areas hit by disasters to provide information about applying for help and types of assistance available. FEMA contract workers assess damage by measuring homes and taking pictures. All FEMA employees will carry clearly marked identification.

Q: How long will FEMA be in the area?

A: Recovery centers will be open for at least 30 days after the storm, and some centers will likely be open longer, for 60 or 90 days. FEMA will remain until state officials decide they are no longer needed, which will likely be several months.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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