Do Not Let Misinformation Keep You from Registering for Disaster Assistance

FEMA logo
FEMA logo

By Tameka Kenan-Norman, City of Rocky Mount NC

Thousands of North Carolinians registered for disaster assistance since Hurricane Matthew struck, and thousands more may still be eligible. Some survivors don’t register for assistance for a variety reasons, including misunderstandings, rumors and misconceptions. Therefore, these individuals miss out on financial and other disaster assistance.

If you haven’t yet registered and are a homeowner, renter or business owner with disaster-related damage in a designated county, do not let misinformation keep you from registering. Do it now before it’s too late.

FEMA and the state work closely with other state and federal partners, the private sector, faith-based and voluntary agencies to help match survivors with avenues of assistance. No one is denied disaster assistance because of someone else’s need, and most programs are not dependent on income.

Two common misconceptions regarding registering with FEMA are:

  1. Registering for disaster assistance with other agencies or organizations registers you for FEMA disaster assistance. It does not.
  2. Having FEMA flood insurance registers you for disaster assistance. It does not. It also does not disqualify you from applying for assistance. Flood insurance claims are handled separately and you may find that you had uninsured losses.

If you haven’t registered because English is not your first language, don’t let that stop you. If you or someone you know needs language assistance, FEMA has interpreters who speak many languages. Translators are available and can help you in the registration process.

Also, know that you may apply if you are a non-citizen national with a Social Security number, or if you are a qualified alien who holds permanent residency, a refugee or have asylum status. If you are the parent of a U.S. citizen in your household, you may apply for federal disaster assistance on behalf of your child.
If you are a renter and haven’t registered, know that you too may be eligible for federal disaster assistance and referrals to state agencies that may be able to help.

As an applicant, your information is confidential. FEMA does not share your information with other agencies unless you want us to do so.

FEMA, North Carolina Emergency Manager and the U.S. Small Business Administration offer a variety of programs to help in your recovery. FEMA assistance will not affect your government benefits, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). You will not pay additional income taxes or see any reduction in your Social Security checks or any other federal benefits.

The following are commonly asked questions and responses with accurate information about federal and state disaster programs and services:

I have insurance. Am I still eligible for help? Possibly. FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, but you may be eligible for help with losses not covered or with damage in excess of your coverage.

I am waiting for my insurance adjuster. Can I still apply for disaster assistance? Yes. Don’t wait for an adjuster before applying for aid or making necessary repairs to make your house livable, but do check with your local building officials for permitting, right of entrance or any other local issues before starting. Be sure to keep papers and receipts for all work because you may qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by insurance. And, you will want to keep FEMA informed of your settlement status and provide any updated insurance documentation, including a settlement if you received it.

I received help from the Red Cross and other organizations immediately after the disaster. Can I still get help from FEMA or the state? Yes.

If I gave information to my emergency manager, called 2-1-1 or the American Red Cross, must I still register with FEMA? Yes. To be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance, you must first apply with FEMA. You can apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, call FEMA’s Helpline at 800.621.3362 for voice, 711 and Video Relay Service. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY, you would call 800.462.7585. You also can download the FEMA Mobile App and apply.

I don’t own a business. Why should I apply for a loan from the SBA? Next to insurance, SBA is the primary source of funds for real estate property repairs and replacing lost contents following a disaster. Obtaining a low-interest disaster loan
may be the solution to your recovery needs. Returning the completed application also may enable you to qualify for additional FEMA disaster recovery assistance programs for other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral and burial costs. If SBA determines you cannot afford a loan, you may be considered for assistance from other organizations. There is no requirement to take out a loan if one is offered from SBA.

For more information on the North Carolina recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4285 and readync.org. Follow FEMA on Twitter @femaregion4 and North Carolina Emergency Management @ncemergency.

You also can personally visit one of the many FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers, searchable here.

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About Kay Whatley 2239 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.