How to get disaster assistance

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President Obama declared the counties of Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset as disaster areas eligible for federal relief,  but state  officials are hoping for more.

New Jerseyans seeking federal disaster relief should follow a three-step process outlined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is outlined here.

Governor Chris Christie urged all New Jerseyans in the counties declared as disaster areas to inquire with FEMA, even if they have insurance or aren’t sure if they eligible.

Here are the three basic steps to receiving disaster assistance:

STEP ONE: Registration 
Register by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for those with hearing or speech impairments. Specialists are standing by at the toll-free numbers seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, until further notice. Help in other languages is available. Or you can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. You can also apply through a web-enabled mobile device or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov and following the link to “apply online for federal assistance.”

  • If you have insurance, contact your agent before registering with FEMA.
  • When calling FEMA, you will need: your Social Security number, your current mailing address, the address of the damaged property, a brief description of the damages and any insurance information, including the policy number and the name of your agent, and a phone number where you can be reached.
  • Fill out and return your SBA low-interest disaster loan application if you receive one. Returning the application does not obligate you to accept an SBA loan, but the application must be filled out in order to be considered for other types of disaster assistance.

STEP TWO: Inspections

After you register, a FEMA-contracted housing inspector will call you to set up an appointment to inspect your property. There is no charge for this service, but it is a necessary step to determine damages.

Make sure your home or mailbox number is easily visible from the road. As part of the inspection process, you must provide proof of ownership or occupancy:

  • Homeowners may show a tax bill, deed, mortgage payment receipt or insurance policy with the property’s address.
  • Renters may show a lease, rent payment receipt, utility bill or other document confirming the home was their primary residence at the time of the disaster.
  • Homeowners and renters must also present a valid driver’s license or other photo ID.

STEP THREE: Keep in Touch

Among the top five reasons applicants fail to receive federal assistance grants is FEMA’s inability to contact them after they apply. This can be particularly difficult for persons in shelters or temporary housing. FEMA tries to reach applicants numerous times before a decision on an application is made. It is vital that you inform FEMA of any change in telephone number and/or mailing address. This can be done by simply calling the FEMA Helpline (see below) or by visiting the disaster assistance website.

For More Information or Questions

For any assistance along the way – such as with help filling out the applications, and general questions or progress reports – call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 800-462-7585, and select the language option you require.

Receiving a FEMA Grant

FEMA will issue funds if you are found eligible under the Individuals and Households Program. If you have provided banking information to FEMA, the funds will be deposited directly into your account. This option can often speed up the process of receiving assistance.

If you do receive a check, deposit it as soon as possible. You must use the money for the disaster-related assistance for which it is intended. You will receive a letter outlining how the funds are to be spent.


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