FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DISASTER ASSISTANCE IN OKLAHOMA

Disaster News

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management

Federal Emergency Management Agency

June 1, 2010

FEMA News Desk:    405-917-3250

OEM PIO, Michelann Ooten:  405-521-2481 (office); 405-205-1879 (cell)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DISASTER ASSISTANCE IN OKLAHOMA

OKLAHOMA CITY – If your home or property was damaged by Oklahoma’s May 10-13 severe storms and tornadoes, getting the correct answers to your questions and knowing where to go for help is vital to your recovery.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer disaster assistance to eligible homeowners, renters and business owners. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about federal disaster assistance:

How do I apply?
There are several ways to apply for disaster assistance.  Residents can apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with speech or hearing impairments should call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.

What kinds of assistance are available?
Disaster assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other aid programs. Grants do not have to be repaid.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace damaged real estate and personal property. SBA also offers low-interest working capital loans to small businesses with working capital needs as a result of the disaster. The disaster loans cover uninsured or uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, call 1-800-659-2955, or (TTY) 1-800-877-8339 for people with hearing or speech impairments.

Am I eligible for Individual Assistance if I already have insurance?
You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance, because you may find that you are underinsured or have unmet needs after your insurance settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, please do this as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are many things that insurance does not cover, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply to the SBA. SBA will process your application subject to your insurance settlement.

I have applied. What happens next?
After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to cover the uncompensated losses for personal contents up to $40,000 for both homeowners and renters and up to $200,000 for homeowners for physical damage to their primary residence. The SBA also provides low-interest loans up to $2 million for uncompensated physical losses suffered by businesses of any size and private, non-profit organizations. Additionally, working capital loans are available for economic injuries sustained by small businesses in the declared counties and the adjoining counties. The combination of the two business loans cannot exceed $2 million.

FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, an applicant must complete and submit an SBA loan application to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

How can I check the status of my case?
Applicants may visit a local Disaster Recovery Center, go online to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing or speech impaired. Make sure you have your registration number handy. A list of Disaster Recovery Center locations is available at www.fema.gov/oklahoma. Click “May Tornado Disaster” banner.

Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive Individual Assistance?
Yes. To be eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance grants you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a qualified alien. A qualified alien generally includes individuals who are lawful permanent residents (possessing a “green card”) or those with refugee or asylum status. Qualified aliens include those permitted in the United States for at least one year for humanitarian purposes, those with conditional entry, those who are Cuban-Haitian entrants and those with petitions for relief based on battery or extreme cruelty by a family member. Check with an immigration expert if you have questions about your legal status.

Is there any assistance available for undocumented immigrants?
You may apply for Individual Assistance on behalf of your child who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien. Another adult household member may qualify for household assistance if he or she is a documented immigrant. You may also be eligible under different programs run by state, local or voluntary agencies for various types of cash assistance. An undocumented immigrant may be eligible for short-term, non-cash emergency aid provided by FEMA.

Is assistance available to help prevent future damage?

Yes, FEMA has a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). During the recovery phase of a disaster, local jurisdictions can select projects that could reduce property damage from future disasters and submit grant applications to the state. FEMA will provide grants to the state of Oklahoma under the HMGP program that the state administers. HMGP funds can be used to make improvements to public or private property as long as the project provides a long-term solution to a specific risk and meets state and federal funding criteria. FEMA defines mitigation as any action taken to prevent or reduce adverse effects from disasters. Methods that may reduce the risk for future flooding include residential property acquisitions, elevating flood-prone homes and businesses, and retrofitting commercial, publicly owned or nonprofit buildings to minimize damage.

More information about this disaster is available online at www.fema.gov/Oklahoma or www.oem.ok.gov. Users of smart phones or other mobile devices can find information at m.fema.gov.

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Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) prepares for, responds to, recovers from and mitigates against emergencies and disasters. The department delivers service to Oklahoma cities, towns and counties through a network of more than 350 local emergency managers.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private, non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and covers the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For information about SBA programs, applicants may call the Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339).