TRENTON — It’s important to know the difference between myth and fact in the aftermath of a hurricane. Survivors need accurate information on registering for FEMA aid and on what they may be eligible to receive.
The best rule of thumb: if you’re unsure if you are eligible for assistance, go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or m.fema.gov, or call 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA). Those with access or functional needs can call 1-800-462-7585, or 1-800-621-3362 if using 711 or Video Relay Service.
Here are some common misunderstandings:
MYTH: I’ve already cleaned up the damage to my home and had the repairs made. Isn’t it too late to register once the work is done?
FACT: You may be eligible for reimbursement of your clean up and repair costs, even if repairs are complete.
MYTH: I’m a renter. I thought FEMA assistance was only for homeowners for home repairs.
FACT: FEMA assistance is not just for homeowners. FEMA may provide assistance to help renters who lost personal property or who were displaced.
MYTH: FEMA assistance could affect my Social Security benefits, taxes, food stamps or Medicaid.
FACT: FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and is not considered taxable income.
MYTH: My insurance agent told me I could not get help from FEMA because I have flood insurance.
FACT: Even if you have flood insurance you should register. FEMA may be able to help with uninsured costs.
MYTH: I heard registration involves a lot of red tape and paperwork.
FACT: There is no paperwork to register with FEMA. The process is very easy and normally takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
MYTH: I believe FEMA only makes loans so I didn’t apply for help because I don’t want a loan.
FACT: FEMA only provides grants. The grants may cover expenses for temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged personal property and other disaster-related needs such as medical, dental or transportation costs not covered by insurance or other programs. They don’t have to be repaid.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to
renters, homeowners and businesses of all sizes. Some applicants may receive an SBA loan application after registering with FEMA. No one is obligated to take out a loan, but if they don’t complete the application they may not be considered for other federal grant programs.
MYTH: Since I received disaster assistance last year, I’m sure I can’t get it again this year.
FACT: Assistance may be available if you suffered damages from a new federally declared disaster.
MYTH: My income is probably too high for me to qualify for disaster assistance.
FACT: Income is not a consideration for FEMA assistance. FEMA grants may cover uninsured losses.
MYTH: I don’t want to apply for help because others had more damage than I had; they need the help more than me.
FACT: FEMA has enough funding to assist all eligible survivors with their disaster related needs.