News Column

What Can FEMA and SBA Do for Sandy Victims?

Dec 13, 2012

Superstorm Sandy survivors, who have changed their minds about staying in storm-damaged homes while repairs are underway, may still be able to get federal housing help.

Initially, thousands of state residents said they would not relocate while repairs were being made to their homes and apartments, according to a news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So, those residents were ineligible for FEMA temporary housing assistance, the agency said. But residents who have changed their minds about temporary relocation, may still be able to get help, the agency said.

According to the news release:

- If it has been less than 30 days since the receipt of a FEMA determination letter, call 800-621-3362. Tell FEMA workers that your housing situation has changed and request temporary housing assistance.

- If it has been more than 30 days since the receipt of the FEMA determination letter, you must reply in writing. Send a letter, stating that you want to change your earlier response, explain how your circumstances have changed and request temporary housing assistance.

Survivors can follow up on previous applications online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or by web-enabled mobile device at m.FEMA.gov. By phone or 711/VRS, call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.

Getting disaster aid with insufficient damage

Superstorm Sandy survivors have many options for obtaining disaster assistance even if they receive a letter stating they have insufficient damage, officials said.

The survivor has three key options after receiving such a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said public information officer Chris McKniff in a statement:

-Appeal: Filing an appeal of an inspector's decision on habitability requires verifiable documentation to show there was disaster-caused damage that rendered the house uninhabitable. Appeal letters must be postmarked within 60 days after the date of the decision letter.

-Apply: Apply for a low-interest, long term disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Loans are the main form of disaster assistance to households, and SBA representatives will work with survivors to find affordable terms. Applying for an SBA loan also preserves a survivor's potential eligibility for other forms of assistance, such as grants for replacing personal property losses.

-Find Help: Get volunteer help. The path forward can also lead to the dozens of private, non-profit groups that have pitched in to help out in the response to and recovery from superstorm Sandy. Some groups provide volunteers to help out with minor repairs to real estate.

Always read the FEMA letter carefully and follow the instructions. If there are any questions or if an insurance settlement does not cover all costs, call the FEMA Helpline 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. The Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or visit a Disaster Recovery Center for one-on-one assistance.

Survivors should also refer to pages 20-26 of the booklet, "Help after a Disaster: Applicant's Guide to the Individuals and Households Program," which is mailed to everyone who registers with FEMA. This guide explains all possible reasons for denial of assistance.

Sandy survivors should submit insurance settlement information

Superstorm Sandy survivors who registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and indicated they had insurance coverage should send in their insurance settlement information as soon as they receive it, officials said.

The documents allow FEMA to determine if survivors have uninsured or underinsured losses eligible for federal assistance. By law, FEMA cannot provide financial assistance for losses covered by insurance or pay deductibles either. Decisions on FEMA aid are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to a statement from the agency.

To submit insurance documentation:

-Gather insurance documents and any settlement information.

-Write the applicant's name, FEMA registration number and 4086-DR-NJ on each page.

-Send a copy of these documents to FEMA by:

Fax: 800-827-8112

Mail: National Processing Service Center

P.O. Box 10055

Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

Visiting a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Find the nearest DRC online at http://www.fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers.

Survivors can call FEMA with questions at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with assistance is available in many languages.

November Update

The federal government has extended disaster assistance for New Jerseyans impacted by Hurricane Sandy to all 21 counties, providing direct assistance to individuals and households in the aftermath of the historic hurricane Sandy, Gov. Christie announced Tuesdasy.

Individuals in all New Jersey counties are now eligible for federal disaster relief. New Jersey residents and small businesses in all 21 counties are now eligible for Individual Assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Small Business Administration.

All 21 of the counties have already been approved by the federal government as eligible for Public Assistance, which is an additional form of federal disaster relief. Public Assistance Program funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Survivors of Hurricane Sandy who suffered damage should apply for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- even if they have insurance or aren't sure if they are eligible, Christie said.

Services provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

-- Grants for expenses not covered by insurance, including money to repair and rebuild dwellings and temporary housing -- short-term hotel expenses, rent for up to 18 months, or, as a last resort, a FEMA manufactured housing unit.

-- Grants for disaster-related medical and dental expenses, funeral expenses, clothing, furniture, education items such as computers.

-- Grants for heating oil or natural gas, equipment needed for cleanup, moving and storage expenses.

-- Counseling services, unemployment assistance, legal aid, income-tax assistance, Social Security and veteran benefits assistance. Services provided by the Small Business Administration:

-- Homeowners can apply for direct loans of up to $200,000 to repair or replace real estate beyond what's covered by insurance. The loans have interest rates as low as 1.7 percent and can be repaid over 30 years.

-- Homeowners and renters can apply for loans of up to $40,000 -- also as low as 1.7 percent -- to repair or replace personal property that isn't covered by insurance.

-- Businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace real estate, machinery or inventory. The loan may be increased to pay for improvements that can mitigate future disasters. The business loans have an interest rate of 4 percent; the nonprofit loans are 3 percent.

-- Businesses with fewer than 500 employees and agriculture and aquatic businesses are eligible for loans of up to $2 million to use as working capital that can help them pay bills.

How to contact:

People can apply for disaster relief at DisasterAssistance.gov; through smartphones at m.fema.gov; or by calling 800-621-3362.

Home and business owners interested in the SBA's loan program can apply at https://disaster loan.sba.gov/ela/.



Source: (c)2012 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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